May 24, 2010
8:58 p.m.

CHARLOTTESVILLE — At the schools that are considered perennial powers in men’s college lacrosse, regular appearances on the sports’ biggest stage — the NCAA tournament’s final four — are expected.

Dave Cottle is out as Maryland’s coach, in part because his team failed to reach the NCAA semifinals in 2007, ’08, ’09 and again this year.

Virginia, by contrast, has advanced to the final four for the third straight year and fifth time in six seasons. The NCAA semifinals will be televised on ESPN2 and the championship game on ESPN, and the participating teams will benefit from that national exposure.

“There’s such a disproportionate amount of attention paid to our sport in the period starting a day or two before the quarterfinals going through next weekend,” Cavaliers coach Dom Starsia said Monday afternoon.

“I’ve always said that I feel like it’s really important for a program like ours to still be playing during that period of time. I don’t take it for granted at all, and I’m frankly quite humbled to be going back again. I think it is a testament to the effort overall by our kids since the beginning of the season. We’re whatever our record is and we’ve played a really hard schedule and we’re still going, so I think there’s a lot to be proud of.”

Top-seeded UVa (16-1) will meet ACC rival Duke (14-4), the No. 5 seed, in the 6:30 p.m. semifinal Saturday in Baltimore.

The Blue Devils crushed fourth-seeded North Carolina 17-9 in their quarterfinal Saturday. A day later, Virginia struggled to beat eighth-seeded Stony Brook 10-9 on the Seawolves’ home field on Long Island, N.Y.

Most of the crowd was pulling for Stony Brook, but what affected UVa more was its woeful performance at the faceoff X.

In the Cavaliers’ 13-8 regular-season win over Stony Brook in Charlottesville, they won 14 of 25 draws. In the rematch, the Seawolves won 18 of 23. Adam Rand took every faceoff for Stony Brook.

“That was the surprise of the game yesterday, and we tried everything,” Starsia said. “The kid just had our number, their wing play was very good, and we just didn’t seem like we could do anything there. We came out in the second half and put Kenny [Clausen] up on the wing, put two poles up on the wing, and they immediately scored two goals.”

For UVa, Brian McDermott was 4 for 15, Ryan Benincasa 1 for 5, and Garett Ince 0 for 3.

The ‘Hoos are trying to reach the title game for the first time since 2006, when they won their third NCAA title in eight seasons. To get past Duke, the Cavaliers almost certainly will have to fare better at the faceoff X than they did against Stony Brook.

In the teams’ regular-season meetings, Duke won 17 of 25 draws and whipped UVa 13-9.

In the ACC tournament semifinals, UVa won 22 of 32 faceoffs and drilled Duke 16-12, ending an eight-game losing streak in the series.

“We’re going to need to be productive in the middle of the field to give ourselves a chance here in this next game,” Starsia said.

“We can’t let them just control the play. They’re too dangerous a lacrosse team. They’re capable of scoring too quickly in transition to give them a lot of those faceoff opportunities.”

Jeff White

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