By Jeff White
COLLEGE PARK, Md. — The good folks at Inside Lacrosse have nothing against the University of Maryland men’s team, mind you, but no doubt they were delighted with the outcome of Saturday night’s ACC game at Byrd Stadium.
UVa’s 11-10 win over fourth-ranked Maryland ensured that the second annual Big City Classic, a tripleheader whose sponsors include Inside Lacrosse, will include a marquee matchup.
At 4 p.m. next Saturday, Virginia (1-0, 10-0), ranked No. 1 in the Nike/Inside Lacrosse poll, will meet North Carolina (2-0, 10-0), ranked No. 2 in that poll, at New Meadowlands Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J.
UVa and UNC are the only remaining unbeaten teams in Division I. The Big City Classic will be the first event held at the venue built to replace Giants Stadium.
“You got a great matchup, great facility,” Cavaliers coach Dom Starsia said Saturday night. “If we get a little [good] weather, with the curiosity factor for this stadium, as much as anything else, I think we could have a monster crowd there. I think we could be north of 30,000 people, easily. So it’ll be a great experience for us.”
A crowd of 7,639 turned out for the UVa-Maryland clash at Byrd Stadium, and fans saw Starsia’s team dominate early. The ‘Hoos scored the game’s first six goals and led 7-2 at the half.
“It was gratifying to see us come out and be so sharp,” Starsia said. “We faced off, we played defense, we moved the ball, we did all the things we needed to. And at the end of the day, we needed every one of those goals in order to win this game.”
Eighty-eight seconds into the second half, sophomore attackman Chris Bocklet’s fourth goal made it 8-2, and there was little reason to believe the Terrapins (1-2, 6-2) would make this one interesting. By the end of the third quarter, however, it was 8-5, and Maryland’s confidence was growing.
UVa, meanwhile, was being reminded that playing with a big lead isn’t always easy.
“Yeah, it’s tough,” sophomore attackman Steele Stanwick, “because you don’t want to force too many things, but you also don’t want to get too passive. So it’s tough to find a balance between that.”
That balance eluded the Cavaliers for the most of the final 30 minutes. The aggressiveness that had earned them a commanding lead in ground balls in the first half — 20-7 — seemed to evaporate. In the second half, Maryland picked up 23 ground balls to 14 for Virginia.
“I would tell you in all honesty, I never thought for one moment that the game was over,” Starsia said. “I have a little superstition where I don’t look at the scoreboard clock [during a game]. I just knew there was way too much time.”
Junior midfielder Shamel Bratton said: “These ACC games are like playoff games, and it’s tough to keep a lead. You get up on them and you jump on them quick in the beginning, and you’re kind of looking at the clock.
“You don’t want to take bad shots, but you still gotta play offense. You don’t want to get called for stalling. It’s harder to keep a lead against a team that’s going to keep coming at you. Especially against a good defensive team, you don’t want to take any bad shots, and we kind of let it slip in the third and into the fourth quarter.”
Back-to-back goals by Stanwick pushed UVa’s lead back to five, at 10-5, with 12:49 left. But the Terps kept coming, and when Joe Cummings scored with at the 3:36 mark, it was 10-9, and Virginia fans watching on ESPNU or from the stands feared the worst.
An apparent goal by Maryland’s Ryan Young, which would have made it 10-10 with 2:11 to play, was nullified by a crease violation. To that point, neither of UVa’s high-scoring Bratton twins, Rhamel or Shamel, had recorded a point. But Shamel finally broke through, capitalizing on a defensive lapse by Maryland to fire a rocket past goalie Brian Phipps.
That made it 11-9 with 1:51 remaining. Maryland pulled to 11-10 on 6-6, 250-pound attackman Will Yeatman’s fourth goal, but UVa controlled the ensuring faceoff — freshman midfielder Chris LaPierre gobbled up the ground ball and sprinted away from his pursuers — and then called time out with 36 seconds left.
By the time Maryland got the ball back, after a UVa turnover, only 11 seconds remained. The Terps couldn’t get a shot on cage, and then threw the ball away as time expired.
“A little too close for comfort there at the end,” Stanwick said.
Bolting to an early lead was great, Stanwick said, “but you also want to be playing the full 60 minutes. I don’t think we really did play the full 60 minutes, but we sure did have a great first quarter, great first half. We were able to squeeze out enough to get the win here.”
Starsia said: “I don’t think we handed it to [the Terps]. I thought that they earned their way back into it. If you had said to me before we started this that you’re going to win this game 11-10, or whatever the score was, I would have been very happy with that. The fact that this is the way it turned out, that’s how these games are. Just the ebb and flow of these games. We score early and win late. I’ll take it.”
Of the crease violation that outraged the Terps, who considered it a blown call, Starsia said, “I really couldn’t see it. I couldn’t tell you if it was. I’ll believe that it was. I’ve had enough calls go the other way, and I’m sure the official in that moment must have seen it, if that’s the call he made.”
UVa’s heroes included Brian McDermott, who won 12 of 19 faceoffs, including the pivotal draw after Maryland closed to 11-10.
“When you talk about faceoff percentages with guys, I often talk about the fact that the key is whether or not you’re going to win a faceoff when a game is being decided,” Starsia said. “Fortunately for us, Brian got one late, and he’s done a nice job for us. He battled all night tonight.”
Two days before the game, Starsia had been asked in Charlottesville how, if he were coaching against the Brattons, he would try to limit the twins’ effectiveness.
Maryland provided an answer. The Terps assigned a defender with a long stick to each Bratton.
“They have athletic defensemen, and they just did a really good job,” Starsia said. “Now when you do that, you create space for our attackmen. Going into the season, the question was whether or not we were going to be able to capitalize on those kind of opportunities, and tonight was kind of Steele and Bocklet’s night.”
Stanwick matched his career high with four goals and also had an assist. Bocklet, who rarely played as a freshman, scored four goals against Maryland, tying his career high. For the season, he has 30 goals. No other Cavalier has more than 16.
“He always seems to be open,” Stanwick said. “I feel like he’s always moving when I have the ball, so he’s my favorite guy to throw the ball to. He just finds a way to get open, and he finds a way to get it in there, and he just played great tonight, really got us off to a good start there.”
And now the ‘Hoos can turn their attention to their looming showdown with the Tar Heels.
“That’ll just be a great day for lacrosse in general,” Shamel Bratton said.