By Jeff White (email@example.com)
CHARLOTTESVILLE — The UVa men’s lacrosse team finds itself in an unfamiliar position. For the first time since 2004, when the Cavaliers finished 5-8, they have dropped back-to-back regular-season games.
Virginia’s 12-11 loss to Johns Hopkins, March 26 in Baltimore, was not decided until the final minutes. A week later, though, sixth-ranked UVa’s game with 10th-ranked Maryland was effectively over with 8:46 to play.
That’s when the Terrapins, in pursuit of their first victory in Charlottesville since 2003, scored to take a five-goal lead. When the last second ticked off the clock Saturday afternoon, the scoreboard showed 12-7, and most members of a crowd that at its peak numbered 10,545 had left Scott Stadium.
In their ACC opener, the Wahoos (0-1, 7-3) led 5-4 at halftime. But the Terps (1-2, 7-2) stunned their hosts by scoring the first six goals of the second half. Adam Ghitelman made 11 saves, but repeated breakdowns by UVa defensemen and midfielders often left the senior goalie in vulnerable situations.
“I wouldn’t quarrel too much with our effort or our intent coming out of the locker room at halftime,” Virginia coach Dom Starsia said, “but clearly we just didn’t get the job done, and credit Maryland for having some responsibility for that.”
The Terrapins recorded assists on nine of their 12 goals. Time and again, Maryland players spotted and fed teammates who were open near the goal. Senior attackman Ryan Young had a game-high 4 assists and also scored 2 goals for Maryland.
“I thought Adam played well,” Starsia said. “Our inexperience on defense tends to show up more away from the ball than it does on the ball. I think that’s just a matter of fact, and I thought they took advantage of us. We just weren’t tight enough inside. It’s been an issue for us since the beginning of the year.
“We work on it all the time. Those kind of things have a lot to do with sort of instinct and a really fine attention to detail at the very end of a play. We get ourselves lined up correctly, and we make a decisive move to the ball to help out, or something else, and then we just don’t cover up quite well enough with that second and third guy.”
After Maryland’s Owen Blye scored to make it 10-5 with 10:44 remaining, many UVa fans began heading for the exits. A few minutes later, conditions on this cool spring afternoon took a bizarre twist. Hail began pelting the stadium, and spectators in the exposed areas of the stands all but sprinted up the steps toward cover.
“It was just crazy,” said junior attackman Steele Stanwick, whom Maryland held to a single goal. “It just wasn’t our day. And when the weather’s coming on top of you like that, it just adds on to everything.”
Virginia’s wondrously talented senior midfielders, twins Shamel and Rhamel Bratton, were held out of the Feb. 26 game at Stony Brook for violating team rules. Rhamel played against Maryland and scored 2 goals, but Shamel, a two-time first-team All-American, was on the sideline in street clothes, serving another suspension.
Starsia said he decided early in the week that Shamel would not play against Maryland. It’s not clear when Shamel will return.
“He didn’t practice with us this week,” Starsia said. “I spent time with him probably every day. A team has a set of guidelines and rules, and I do treat everybody individually, but the rules need to be applied equally. We’ll continue to stay in touch and sort this out.”
In its first nine games, UVa converted nearly 61 percent of its extra-man opportunities. The Cavaliers were a dismal 1 for 5 against Maryland.
With 11:26 left in the second quarter, two Terrapins went to the sideline to serve one-minute unreleasable penalties. Virginia led 3-2 at the time but failed to capitalize on Maryland’s ill discipline. With a two-player advantage, the ‘Hoos turned the ball over, and the Terps successfully killed the penalties.
Its inability to convert in extra-man situations deflated his team, Starsia acknowledged. With Shamel Bratton out, the Cavaliers “just never seemed to be moving the ball with enough confidence on the extra-man,” Starsia said. “I thought there were a couple opportunities in the game, even in the third quarter, where we might have gotten something done there, and we weren’t able to cash in. So clearly I thought that was a factor.”
The game was the Cavaliers’ first at Scott Stadium since 1995. The attendance there Saturday was higher than the official capacity (8,000) of Klöckner Stadium, the team’s usual home. The lacrosse preceded UVa’s spring football game.
“I thought it was a great atmosphere for a game,” Starsia said. “I thought the place looked great, [with] a nice crowd. I thought there a lot to be happy about. I don’t regret the decision one bit coming over and doing this.”
UVa will be back at Klöckner next Saturday for a noon game against fourth-ranked North Carolina (1-1 ACC, 7-2 overall). UNC whipped Maryland 11-6 in College Park last weekend.
The loss to Maryland will sting for a while, but it did not end Virginia’s season. Starsia made that point in his press conference.
“In 2003, we lost to Hopkins and Maryland in the middle of the season and came back and won a national championship,” he said. “What happened to us today sort of happened to Maryland a week ago, on their own field. We’ve just got to be fully committed to playing better, practicing hard and preparing ourselves to play the next game, and that’s what it is.
“I mean, we only lost a game today. We’re 7-3. We’ve played a tough schedule. We’ve had some good wins. We just want to be a team that continues to improve, and I don’t think you saw a lot of evidence of that today.”