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The excitement that surrounds the reflection of a new season is always tempered with the expectation of the participants. It is hard to argue with the success of a senior class that has been to the final weekend and the NCAA semifinal round in each of their first three years. However, it is the players themselves who feel most strongly that their best lacrosse is still ahead.

As the Cavaliers strive to make it back to the Memorial Day extravaganza for the 10th time in 13 years, Virginia head coach Dom Starsia is on a quest of historic proportions. The UVa skipper enters the year with 316 career wins, needing only 11 to pass coaching legend Jack Emmer for the most victories by a head coach while coaching at a NCAA Division I school.

Both coach and players have worked very hard in preparation for the 2011 campaign, determined to take the next step. If focus, effort and desire are part of the recipe for success, this Virginia team may have the leadership required to bring it together. Another great schedule, an exciting blend of experience and new talent, and as athletic a group as has gathered in Charlottesville brings the promise of another impressive Virginia Lacrosse season.

A position with two new starters and a leader in only his second season certainly provided some uncertainty going in to 2010. Those questions were answered quickly, however, as juniors Steele Stanwick and Chris Bocklet embarked on an athletic journey, resulting with the duo being recognized as All-Americans by season’s end.

Scoring 53 times, Bocklet became the first Cavalier to score more than 50 goals since Doug Knight’s 56 goals in 1996. Stanwick quarterbacked the offense with a team-best 32 assists to go with his 29 goals.

“Steele is simply one of the nation’s finest attackman,” said Starsia. “His selection by his teammates to be a captain in his third season reflects the respect he has among his peers and the staff. He continues to get stronger and his ability to get to the edge is only overlooked because of his deft touch finding the open man. He makes everyone around him better.”

Bocklet became one of the nation’s best “snipers” in 2010. “A great complement to Stanwick’s play, Bocklet’s ability to get open constantly and to finish those shots make him uniquely dangerous,” said Starsia.

Three sophomores rotated through the third spot in 2010 and provide depth and versatility. “Connor English is a tough lefthander who may be the most determined dodger of all the attackmen,” said Starsia. “He can get to the corner and make a shot.”

“Matt White can play behind or out on either corner,” said Starsia. “He is a smart, physical attackman who may be getting ready to step out on the national scene.”

“Nick O’Reilly is tough and quick and someone who ‘sees’ the game at a high level,” commented Starsia. “He is working hard to improve his consistency and could come out of the midfield for us as the season goes on, while second year Matt Cockerton has improved dramatically in a year’s time. He has terrific hands and his overall sense of the field game continues to grow.”

First years Mark Cockerton, Owen Van Arsdale and Patrick Glading showed sparks of their potential throughout the fall and will be making their mark. “Owen plays with a poise beyond his years and may redshirt in 2011 as he gets stronger,” said Starsia. “Mark suffered a shoulder injury in the fall and his rehab will extend in to the spring. His appearance later in the season may still be an exciting moment. Patrick is the third of the Glading boys to come and play at UVa, and Pat is strong and capable.”

There will be an impressive group of athletes roaming the midfield for Virginia in 2011. A combination of strength, speed and experience will make this a tough group to match up with. The “twins,” seniors Rhamel and Shamel Bratton jump off the page in any consideration of the nation’s top middies. While their athleticism is understandably noteworthy, it is their lacrosse IQ that separates them from their peers.

“Shamel is stronger now, more consistent and almost impossible to cover one-on-one,” said Starsia. “He often drew the opposing team’s best defenseman and he opens the field for everyone else on offense. Rhamel really stepped up in 2010, especially when Shamel was hurt early in the season. He is one of the team’s best all-around middies and will be asked to assume more responsibility in 2011.”

Senior John Haldy is a captain and is coming off his best lacrosse over the fall. “John is a powerful athlete who can get to the cage and now is confident in his shot,” said Starsia. “He has played consistently on the first and second line throughout his career.”

Fourth years Colin Briggs and Chris Clements both have a redshirt season available and bring both offense and defense to the mix. “Colin has become one the team’s most dangerous dodgers and his role continues to expand,” said Starsia. “Chris spent most of the fall working back from a serious knee injury which kept him sidelined a year ago. He is deceptively strong, fast and also can be a factor all over the field.”

Seniors Brian McDermott and Garett Ince shared faceoff duties in 2010 and should be even more of a force this spring. “Brian is back for a fifth year and brings a little more experience with strong technique, Garett is a bull, one of the program’s most powerful athletes,” said Starsia. “They provide a nice one-two punch.”

Sophomore Chris LaPierre certainly got everyone’s attention in 2010 when he scored 10 goals and dished out nine assists, playing mostly as a defensive midfielder. “Chris may be the most lethal combination of size and speed in the college game and he plays with a fearlessness and flair that rattled some opponents,” said Starsia. “He faced-off some this fall and will be a formidable offensive player shortly.”

Junior Matt Kugler added nine points in 12 games in 2010 and Starsia thinks he could be the hardest worker on this team. “Matt sets an example on the practice field that inspires his teammates and gets him on the field on gameday.”

Freshmen Rob Emery and Bobby Hill made their presence felt throughout the fall and will factor in the mix early in the spring. “Rob is a powerful athlete who can get to the cage and really shoot it off the dodge,” said Starsia. “He is fun to watch when he draws it back and lets it go. Bobby very quietly emerged as one of the top defensive middies on the team. He is tough and strong and a quick study.”

Sophomore Blake Riley and freshman Patrick Harbeson are both dramatic athletes, strong and capable of getting onto the field at either end. “Blake is starting to show the consistency of experience and Pat has the determination to get to the cage that is required of significant offensive middies,” said Starsia. “Redshirt freshman Jacob Ghitelman and redshirt sophomore Brian McLinden continue to fight through a series of injuries that have hampered their development.”

Junior Ryan Benincasa and freshman Tommy Kelly are the “technicians” of the face-off crew. “Ryan has played an important role for us in 2010 and his responsibilities are likely to expand,” said Starsia.

The development of the defense, especially early in 2011, will have a lot to say about the pace of Virginia’s play come spring. The task will be to replace two All-America starters on the close defense and two in the defensive midfield.

Senior, co-captain Bray Malphrus, brings experience, focus and discipline to the entire team. “Bray has always been one of the program’s hardest workers and we will now look to him for leadership on and off the field,” said Starsia. “He has a ferocious spirit.”

Redshirt junior Matt Lovejoy really emerged in 2010 and quietly shut down some of the nation’s top attackmen. “His role continues to expand as his confidence grows,” said Starsia. “Bray and Matt are both anxious for the responsibility that accompanies leadership.

“Sixth-year senior Todd Faiella wins all the hardship awards in our sport,” said Starsia. “He has worked diligently to recover from a serious injury that occurred in the spring of 2009 and is close to finally getting back out on to the field. If there is any ‘deserve’ in athletics, Todd will help us in the spring.

“Sophomore Harry Prevas is versatile and smart, with a sophisticated stick and a good lacrosse IQ,” commented Starsia. “He is poised to step into the starting line up and is working hard in preparation.”

Freshman Scott McWilliams has made his presence felt from the first fall practice. “This is an aggressive, dynamic athlete who really gets up and down the field,” said Starsia.

Sophomore Chris Landon may have been the most improved player throughout this past fall. “He may help on the close or in the midfield defense,” said Starsia.
“Junior Wyatt Melzer’s play is distinguished by his solid, consistent effort and performance,” said Starsia. “Wyatt will be asked to fill a number of different roles this spring”

Freshmen Garrett Swankowski and Frank Price are two of the program’s strongest athletes, with the potential to be leading players at this level. “As they gain the confidence that comes with experience, look for their roles to expand throughout the year,” commented Starsia.

“Junior Jarrid Puzes is one of the program’s strongest athletes and best cover defensemen and sophomore Dan Lantz is new to the program this year and has impressed everyone with his dedication and effort,” said Starsia. “Dan carries additional responsibilities with Army ROTC.”

The inexperience on defense is offset somewhat by the poise and experience of returning senior All-American Adam Ghitelman in the goal. “Adam clearly has the confidence that can only be achieved by having started for his first three years and having demonstrated such inspiring play in 2010,” said Starsia. “He has always been one of the nation’s best outside the crease and his play between the pipes is now at a consistently higher level. We will all look to Adam in 2011 to guide a young group through a challenging schedule and he is anxious and able to assume that role.”

Junior Rob Fortunato adds the experience of having played in the 2010 World Games for the Italian National Team to go along with his work on the practice field. “Rob has gained the confidence of the team and the staff and he is ready to step in,” said Starsia

Freshman Austin Geisler may redshirt in 2011, especially after having broken his thumb early in the fall. “He is big and strong and has impressed everyone with his presence in the goal,” said Starsia. “He will be a good one.”

Sophomore transfer Conor McGee has quietly made a very positive impression in his first year with the program after playing for Michigan’s 2010 MCLA national championship squad. “Conor is a rangy lefty with a strong work ethic,” said Starsia.

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