By Jeff White
CHARLOTTESVILLE — Beginning March 4, the UVa men’s lacrosse team will play on TV at least seven times before the start of the NCAA tournament, every game of which ESPN will carry on one of its networks.
The Cavaliers’ next game, however, will not be televised, and that’s a shame. Fans who can’t make it to LaValle Stadium on Long Island, N.Y., will miss what figures to be a memorable clash between No. 1 Virginia and No. 5 Stony Brook.
The Wahoos are 2-0, with wins over Drexel and Mount St. Mary’s. The Seawolves have yet to play this season, but their returning standouts include faceoff specialist Adam Rand and All-America candidates Tom Compitello (attack) and Kevin Crowley (midfield). The game will start at noon Saturday.
“I was saying to the Stony Brook coach just this morning, actually, that if this rivalry continues the way it’s going right now, TV may be clamoring for this sooner rather than later,” UVa coach Dom Starsia said Thursday at University Hall.
The ‘Hoos lead the series 8-0, but as Stony Brook’s program has matured, the games have become more competitive. This will be the second time in 10 months that these teams have met on the Seawolves’ field.
Stony Brook hosted an NCAA quarterfinal doubleheader at LaValle Stadium last spring, and top-seeded Virginia had the misfortune of having to face the Seawolves on their field, in front of thousands of their fans.
A raucous crowd of 10,024 saw the ‘Hoos escape with a 10-9 victory.
“It was probably as electric an atmosphere as I can remember for a game in some time,” Starsia said.
“It’s a little easier for me to say this when we won the game, but I thought it was a great day for lacrosse. I like the Stony Brook coach and athletic director and what they’ve done with the program. I was happy for them, because I think it was a key moment for them also.”
Starsia grew up on Long Island, as did several of his players, including three seniors: Adam Ghitelman and twins Shamel and Rhamel Bratton.
If the Cavaliers reach the NCAA quarterfinals again this season, they would play at Hofstra or at Harvard. So this may not be UVa’s only trip to Long Island this year. Still, there’s guarantee that will happen, Starsia noted, so this game will be “a special moment” for the Long Islanders in the UVa program.
A storyline worth following Saturday is the action at the faceoff X.
In the Cavaliers’ 13-8 win over Stony Brook in Charlottesville last February, they won 14 of 25 draws. In the rematch, the Seawolves won 18 of 23 faceoffs, with Rand taking each one. For UVa, Brian McDermott was 4 for 15, Ryan Benincasa 1 for 5 and Garett Ince 0 for 3 in that game.
This season, McDermott is 10 for 23, Benincasa 9 for 14 and Ince 5 for 14. Another option for Starsia is sophomore midfielder Chris LaPierre, who has won 4 of 5 draws.
After last season, the NCAA changed its rules regarding faceoffs. The goal was to produce more draws that are cleanly and quickly won and to reduce the number of faceoffs that turn into seemingly interminable battles.
This could be considered “the losers’ lament a little bit,” Starsia acknowledged, but in the game at Stony Brook, the Cavaliers contended that Rand “was kind of holding us down. And so that is supposed to be taken away [under the new rules], the ability for either team to be able to do that. I would think the ball will get kicked out a little quicker than it was last spring. It’ll be interesting to see if that favors one team or the other.”