By Jeff White (email@example.com)
CHARLOTTESVILLE — All-America midfielder Shamel Bratton has been practicing this week and is likely to play Saturday against fifth-ranked North Carolina at Klöckner Stadium.
That was the word Thursday morning from UVa men’s lacrosse coach Dom Starsia.
“He’s going to be eligible to play this weekend,” Starsia said. “There’s probably another conversation to be had, but I think he’s going to be out there.”
Bratton, a senior, has twice been suspended for games this season, including once with his twin brother and classmate, Rhamel, another starting middie for the Cavaliers.
Without the Brattons, who violated unspecified team rules, Virginia beat Stony Brook 11-10 in overtime Feb. 26 on Long Island, N.Y.
Without Shamel, a two-time first-team All-American, UVa lost 12-7 to ACC rival Maryland at Scott Stadium last weekend.
Ninth-ranked Virginia (0-1, 7-3) hosts UNC (1-1, 7-3) at noon Saturday. ESPN will televise this ACC game.
The Cavaliers, who lost 12-11 at Johns Hopkins on March 26, have dropped back-to-back regular-season games for the first time since 2004.
“Nobody’s feeling sorry for us because we ran into a little bit of adversity here,” said Starsia, who has won three NCAA titles at Virginia.
“Frankly, confidence is a fragile thing, and you want to just get back to the winning side of the ledger if you can.”
UVa hasn’t lost to UNC since 2004. Having Shamel Bratton back would improve the Cavaliers’ prospects for extending their winning streak in this series to eight games.
Despite being held out of two games, Shamel is UVa’s third-leading scorer, with 24 points on 17 goals and 7 assists. His athleticism and ability to improvise on offense put tremendous pressure on opposing defenses and create opportunities for teammates.
“When your catalyst is not there all of a sudden, when you’re built to have the offense kind of start with him, and then all of a sudden you say he’s not playing, you can sort of imagine the effect that that has overall,” Starsia said.
The Cavaliers’ Hall of Fame coach isn’t asking for sympathy. “You shoot yourself in the foot, and that’s the way it goes. And so, with or without him in the lineup, we have to pick ourselves up and get going,” Starsia said.
“This team has worked hard. It’s been a good practice group. I got no problems with any of that stuff. At the same time, we haven’t quite been sharp enough, and we’ve had these other distractions to deal with, which takes away from being able to focus all your attention on the areas you want to.”
Starsia said after the Maryland game that he was happy for his team to be part of the lacrosse-football doubleheader at Scott Stadium. That’s still true, but he’s looking to playing at Klöckner again.
“I think that’ll be fun,” Starsia said. “I think we’ll have a nice atmosphere up there.”