CHARLOTTESVILLE — The UVa men’s lacrosse team includes players from Virginia, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Connecticut, Canada, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Illinois, Florida, North Carolina, Rhode Island, New Hampshire and California.
“We’ve got players coming from every which way,” longtime coach Dom Starsia said Monday. “It’s the way that the game has grown.”
Lacrosse’s skyrocketing popularity at the youth and high school levels means that the sport’s traditional hotbeds — Baltimore, Long Island and Central New York — have increased competition when it comes to producing big-time talent.
“I think it’s really accelerated recently,” Starsia said. “For us the story sort of began, I think, with [defenseman] Matt Kelly starting here from a public school in Illinois on an undefeated national championship team. I don’t think there’s any secret out there, there are players in lots of different areas, and everybody’s looking.”
The Wahoos’ Californian is freshman Rob Emery, a 6-3, 195-pound midfielder from San Francisco. In the annual alumni game, Emery totaled 4 goals and 2 assists Friday night against a talented team of former UVa players that included brothers Billy and Danny Glading, Ben Rubeor, Kyle Dixon, Michael Culver, Steve Holmes and Ryan Nizolek.
“I would say that [Emery] is sort of well ahead of the curve on both his skill level and lacrosse IQ,” Starsia said. “I think that he’s a little further along than we imagined he might be in some of those kind of things.”
On a night when most of Starsia’s seniors rested, including twins Rhamel and Shamel Bratton and goalie Adam Ghitelman, Virginia still managed to beat the alumni 18-10.
“I thought it was one of the better ones that we’ve had,” Starsia said. “Great showing by the alums. We had a great group there, and then I thought our kids played hard. We weren’t always as sharp as we needed to be, but I thought we kind of kept the pace of the game up and got after it.”
Emery, who graduated from St. Ignatius College Prep, a Jesuit school in San Francisco, has strong athletic genes. His mother, Dana, swan for Stanford. His father, Bob, ran track and played football, basketball and lacrosse at Amherst College.
For Emery, Starsia said, the biggest challenge at this level was always “going to be the shooting piece of this — he’s seeing better goalies every minute of practice than he probably saw most of the time in high school – and whether or not that was going to be discouraging. But I would say that he’s already begun to make that adjustment. He’s just a very smart lacrosse player, and he’s been willing to listen and make the adjustments that he’s needed to. So his lacrosse IQ is further along than I imagined it might, and he’s made a very strong impression on everybody.”
Emery is likely to play mostly on offense, Starsia said, but “he’s very good at both ends of the field, to be honest. He’s a very good defensive midfielder too. I would say he’s just a middie. He reminds me of Kyle Dixon the way he looks out on the field. So that’s pretty high praise. I think he’s got a bright future.”
The Wahoos will scrimmage twice Saturday at Episcopal High in Alexandria, first against Army (11 a.m.) and then versus Princeton (3 p.m.). Virginia’s final fall scrimmage is Oct. 15 against Navy in Annapolis, Md.