Shooting from the Hip with Ryan Nizolek
Senior defenseman Ryan Nizolek and the No. 2 Virginia men’s lacrosse program host No. 1 Syracuse on Sunday at 1 p.m., at Klöckner Stadium. Nizolek, a native of Madison, Conn., recently caught up with VirginiaSports.com to chat about the Syracuse rivalry.
Question: No. 1 Syracuse is coming to Klöckner Stadium for what will be your fifth career game against the Orange. Its one of the most anticipated games of the year, talk about that rivalry.
Nizolek: Certainly Syracuse is one of our biggest rivals. It goes back Coach Dom (Starsia’) second year at UVa when we beat them in the playoffs that year. We have played them every year since, and it is a great rivalry. To get to play them here is unbelievable. Playing in the [Carrier] Dome last year was one of the coolest athletic experiences I have ever had, and it is going to be a great game in front of our fans.
Question: This is the second year in a row where this game has Syracuse ranked No. 1 in the nation and UVa ranked No. 2. What does that bring to the series?
Nizolek: Playing against the No. 1 team is definitely a testament to our hard work in the offseason and how we finished last season. You never know where a preseason No. 1 team will be at the end of the year, but this is still a very important game. Coach Starsia always says that there are no big games, just another game on the schedule, but Syracuse is a dangerous team and we are getting ready for them.
Question: You mention just getting ready for the next game. As a senior you have gotten ready for a lot of games. What memories about Virginia and the lacrosse program are you going to take with you as you move to the next season of your life?
Nizolek: Just being able to come out every day and play with your best friends, I could not ask for anything better. Obviously sometimes practice is a drag, but we are getting through it together. Game-wise, one of the best things was playing at Syracuse. Coming out of that game with a one-goal win showed our poise and how tough we really were. That was a great game for us overall, and I really enjoyed it. As far as finishing my career here, I am trying to get a ring on my finger. We cannot think about that too early and we take it one day at a time, but that is our ultimate goal and how I want to end my career here.
Question: When you can’t think of a place to eat, what is your go to Charlottesville spot?
Nizolek: I definitely like going to Mellow Mushroom a lot. I kind of broke off from that and starting going to Boylan Heights, but now I am bringing Mellow back.
Question: First Saturday after fall ball, what are you doing?
Nizolek: I had knee surgery during the summer, so I was rehabbing this year. Just trying to get back in shape for the season. I was on my grind, hoping to help the team out this season.
Question: What are your plans after graduation?
Nizolek: I am not really sure yet. I have been talking to people in New York and I would like to work at a company I had an internship with over the summer. If that does not work out then I will look other places. It is close to home. I have a little brother who is almost seven, so I would like to be close to home (Madison, Conn.) so I could see him grow up. My whole family is in Connecticut, so I would like to be close to them.
Question: New York and Connecticut – big decision in picking a favorite baseball team. Who is yours?
Nizolek: I like the Red Sox. I am all Boston except for the Giants in the NFL. Everything else I like the Celtics, Bruins, Red Sox. I have never been to a Yankees-Red Sox game, but would love to at some point. It is one of the things I plan on after school. My dad and uncles are all Red Sox fans, and I definitely want to see them beat the Yankees in person.
Question: You start on defense with captain Ken Clausen. He is one of those nationally well known guys on the lacrosse scene with his long hair, facial hair and handlebar mustache tattoo. What does he bring to what is veteran defense?
Nizolek: He brings great charisma to the team. He is obviously a great player and a great guy to be around. He is my roommate and one of my best friends. He is a great human being.
Question: Some very promising and talented defensemen are coming up – what advice to you have for them as you move on?
Nizolek: More than anything just have fun on and off the field. Defense is such a tight unit. You have to know everyone around you on the field, and communication and knowing tendencies are very important. The closer the guys on defense are, the better the defense will be. So if I could say anything it is to become really close friends with your teammates.
Question: Who is your favorite band? What would you like to jam to in warm-ups?
Nizolek: I would say Phish or Grateful Dead. But I am also down for the rap guys. I like Snoop Dogg a lot. He is definitely my favorite solo artist. I love Snoop.
Question: After the game if you and Ken Clausen want to relax at your place what type of movie are you going to throw in to wind down?
Nizolek: I am a comedy guy. I do enjoy the action movies every once in a while, but I am a comedy guy. Lately Ken and I have been going back to the Hangover. It has been making me laugh, and it is a hot movie right now.