By Jeff White (firstname.lastname@example.org)
CHARLOTTESVILLE — Fall practice is under way for the UVa men’s lacrosse team, which, as usual, appears capable of contending for the NCAA title.
Among the standouts back from a team that lost by one goal to eventual champion Duke in the NCAA semifinals last season: attackmen Steele Stanwick and Chris Bocklet, midfielders Shamel and Rhamel Bratton, long-stick middie Bray Malphrus, defenseman Matt Lovejoy and goalie Adam Ghitelman.
“Peacefully quiet,” Dom Starsia said Monday when asked how practice has been. “I got no problems with that, actually. I’m all for a couple of quiet weeks here.
“Nothing dramatic going on. Practice has been going pretty well, actually. A couple of pups are starting to establish themselves a little bit, and I think we’ll get a little help there.”
First-year players likely to have significant roles in 2011 include two heralded recruits: defenseman Scott McWilliams and attackman Mark Cockerton, whose brother, Matt, is a sophomore attackman for the Wahoos.
“I think he plays extra man, and he could maybe play [on the starting attack],” Starsia said of Mark Cockerton, a native of Ontario, Canada, whose father scored 193 goals and was a three-time All-American at N.C. State.
“He’s pretty damn slick. He’ll be fun to watch, playing with Steele and Bocklet, if that’s how it winds up.”
Another attackman who figures to battle for a starting spot alongside Stanwick and Bocklet is sophomore Connor English, who had 10 goals and an assist last season.
English had microfracture surgery after the season to repair cartilage damage in a knee. He hasn’t practiced yet, but English is “actually ahead of schedule,” Starsia said, “and we may get him back for part of fall lacrosse.”
The only position change of note so far involves sophomore Nick O’Reilly, who played attack last season. He’s now working in the midfield.
As for sophomore Chris LaPierre, the 6-2, 215-pound wrecking ball who was used mostly as a defensive midfielder last season, his role is still to be determined.
“We fooled around with him on the first midfield the other day,” Starsia said. “So I don’t know exactly where he ends up, except playing a lot. That’s what he’s going to be doing. I just don’t know exactly what it’s going to look like. He’s too valuable doing everything.”
If the season started this week, Starsia said, his first-team defensemen would be Lovejoy, McWilliams and sophomore Harry Prevas. The top reserve on close defense would probably be junior Jarrid Puzes or freshman Garrett Swankowski.
“I think we’re OK there,” said Starsia, who has guided UVa to three NCAA titles during his illustrious coaching career. “I’m just a little concerned about whether or not we’re able to cover [UNC attackman] Billy Bitter. But I think for right now we’ve actually been off to a pretty good start.”
UVa’s alumni game will be played Oct. 1 at the University Hall Turf Field, starting at 9 p.m. The Cavaliers also have three scrimmages next month.
On Oct. 9, Virginia will meet Army and then Princeton at Episcopal High School in Alexandria. On Oct. 15, UVa will scrimmage Navy in Annapolis, Md.