By Jeff White (firstname.lastname@example.org)
CHARLOTTESVILLE – For the University of Virginia men’s lacrosse team, fall practice started Monday, and for the first time in years Dom Starsia doesn’t see such names as Steele Stanwick and Chris Bocklet and Matt Lovejoy and Colin Briggs when he looks over his roster.
Starsia does, however, see three talented veterans who, for various reasons, did not play for the Cavaliers last season.
Blake Riley, whose work as a defensive midfielder helped UVa win the NCAA title in 2011, is back after missing last season with an Achilles tendon injury. Another standout for the Wahoos in `11, attackman Nick O’Reilly, has been reinstated to the team after serving a one-year suspension for violating team rules.
And then there’s Charlie Streep, who transferred to Virginia this summer after graduating from Bucknell. A torn ACL caused Streep to miss the 2012 season, and he would not have been eligible to play for the Bison in 2013. (Patriot League schools do not allow graduate students to compete.)
Streep, whose father is a brother of the legendary actress Meryl Streep, totaled 76 goals and 28 assists in his three seasons with Bucknell. He played attack and midfield for the Bison, and Starsia can attest to Streep’s skills.
In the first round of the 2011 NCAA tournament,Streep scored a team-high three goals in Bucknell’s 13-12 overtime loss to Virginia at Klöckner Stadium.
“He’s a big, strong kid,” Starsia said. “I think he’s a handful. I don’t know where he’ll play for us yet, but I think he’s someone that’ll figure in before it’s all said and done.”
Streep has enrolled in a graduate program in UVa’s Curry School of Education.
“I would tell you that he did most of this on his own,” Starsia said. “I talked to Charlie early in the summer, and I explained to him the programs that were probably available to him. Then I didn’t do a lot more about it. Really, Charlie showed the initiative to do this, to pursue the application piece of it and to follow through on all of that.
“I didn’t talk to him for about six weeks in the beginning of the summer, and then we caught up about midway through the summer, and he had already applied at that point and was doing what he needed to do. I give him a lot of credit for this.”
In that 2011 game against Bucknell at Klöckner, Riley made a pivotal defensive play in OT that led to the winning goal. He has two seasons of eligibility left.
“We see him playing an important role for us, and we’re anxious to have him back out there,” Starsia said.
The `Hoos finished 12-4 last season after losing to Notre Dame in the NCAA tournament’s second round. The top three scorers from 2012 are gone — Stanwick (80 points), Bocklet (44) and Briggs (36) — and so the return of O’Reilly is significant.
As a sophomore in 2011, O’Reilly emerged as a force in the NCAA tourney. He had one goal and four assists in UVa’s win over Maryland in the championship game and was named to the all-tournament team.
“He’s maybe the best classic attackman in the program,” Starsia said.
Virginia will not have a full complement of players this fall. Its top returning middie, junior Rob Emery, recently had surgery on the thumb he broke during a summer tournament.
“That doesn’t concern me a great deal,” Starsia said of Emery’s absence from practice. “He’ll be back running [soon], and I think it would be much tougher on a new player, or a player coming back from an injury, to miss fall lacrosse.
“I think we do have some interesting pieces,” Starsia said, “but the fall lineup is not so easily figured out. There’s a lot of different ways we can go with some things. I do think we have a good group, but it’s fair to say we have a lot of questions to answer.”
Starsia has no questions about senior Chris “Shocker” LaPierre’s value to the team. The Cavaliers’ Hall of Fame coach isn’t sure, though, about where to play LaPierre, a defensive middie throughout his college career and a second-team All-American last season.
“With Rob being down this fall, it gives us the freedom to try some different things,” Starsia said. “I was talking to Marc about it the other day. We may just put LaPierre on the first offensive midfield and leave him there all fall and see how that looks.
“That’s one of the things that makes us hopeful about our offense: I think we’ve got guys that are hard to cover. Now, whether or not they can all play together, whether or not we can put two passes together, that still remains to be seen. But covering Shocker with a short stick, covering Charlie Streep with a short stick, covering [sophomore middie] Ryan Tucker or [redshirt freshman middie] Greg Coholan with a short stick, I think you got your hands full there. We’ve got some interesting guys, and we’ll see if we can find some interesting combinations.”
First-year Cavaliers who might contribute in 2013 include middies Matt Florence and Will McNamara, midfielder/attackman Zach Wood, goalie Dan Marino and attackman James Pannell, whose brother, Rob, is a fifth-year senior at Cornell and perhaps the best player in college lacrosse.
Inside Lacrosse ranked McNamara, a graduate of the Haverford School near Philadelphia, as the No. 3 prospect in the Class of 2012. Starsia isn’t tempering expectations.
“The McNamara kid is one of the most versatile midfielders that has played our sport in a couple of years,” Starsia said. “I’ve never seen him play with a long pole, but I have had knowledgeable lacrosse people tell me he’s the best long pole they’ve ever seen, and yet he’s the No. 1 short-stick middie in the Inside Lacrosse publication.
“I think he could play on the first offensive midfield. Very rarely do you have a kid who can actually pick up a pole and move between the two positions seamlessly. I might put a pole in his hands just to see what everybody else talks about, but we see him as a short-stick middie, because that’s all I’ve ever seen him play.”
Florence, who’s from Greenwood Village, Colo., was one of four Cavaliers on the United States team that won the gold medal at the under-19 world championships at Turku, Finland, in late July.
“The three older guys, the guys that were with us last year, they all played important roles for that [U.S.] team,” Starsia said. “I think there’s a dose of real genuine confidence that comes with winning, perhaps, but especially the route that those guys took and the fact that they were asked to play an important part of what turned out to be a championship effort. I don’t think you can replicate that kind of experience.
“Ottenbreit and Danseglio didn’t play a lot for us [last season], but you couldn’t have written a better script for their summer, coming back for their second year. And I think even in Tucker’s case, he became the go-to guy for them in the midfield. That’s what we need him to do for us. I think we’re going to be able to count on all those guys to play an important role for us.”
Tucker was named to the All-World team after totaling 10 goals and three assists in seven tournament games. He had two goals against Canada in the final, including the game-winner.
As a UVa freshman, Tucker had 13 goals and two assists and anchored the second midfield, but his production dropped off late in the season.
“It was a good year for him overall,” Starsia said, “but I think experiencing some challenges in the second half of the year helps keep you aware of how hard you gotta work in order to ensure your progression in the program.”
POTENTIAL ADDITION: Thompson Brown, a sophomore who came to UVa as a scholarship football player, is interested in playing lacrosse, and Starsia will give him a tryout this month.
The 6-4, 225-pound Brown, an exceptional athlete, was among the true freshmen who played for Mike London’s team last fall.
He was expected to compete for a spot on the two-deep at defensive end this year, but Brown decided he wasn’t fully committed to football and left the team after the 2011 season.
“If you play the game because you love it, that’s one thing,” London said in the spring, “but if you play it because other people wanted you to play it, then that’s another thing.”
Brown was a standout lax player at St. Christopher’s School in Richmond, and he’ll try to make the team at UVa as a defenseman.
The Cavaliers are well-stocked at that position, Starsia said, “but we’ll see what he can do.”