By Jeff White (email@example.com)
CHARLOTTESVILLE — He last played in a college lacrosse game on May 15, 2011, when UVa staged an epic comeback to beat Bucknell 13-12 in the NCAA tournament’s first round.
Charlie Streep suited up for the visiting team at Klöckner Stadium that day, and he led the Bison with three goals in its overtime loss. He’s still in blue and orange, but he’s now a Cavalier, part of the program that ended his 2011 season on a heartbreaking note. It’s not lost on Streep that his official return to the sport will come at Klöckner, where UVa opens the season against Drexel at 1 p.m. Saturday.
“Very strange,” he said.
The 5-10, 190-pound Streep was a junior on the Bucknell team that lost in 2011 to Virginia, which went on to win the NCAA title. He fully intended to complete his college lacrosse career at the Lewisburg, Pa., school, but Streep tore his left ACL in September 2011 and didn’t recover in time to play for the Bison last season.
The Patriot League does not allow graduate students to compete in varsity sports. And so Streep, who earned his bachelor’s degree in political science from Bucknell in 2012, began looking for a school where he could use his final season of lacrosse eligibility. After also considering Duke and North Carolina, where former Bucknell assistant Pat Myers is on the coaching staff, Streep settled on UVa last summer — but not before apprising some former teammates of his plans.
“It was a little bit awkward coming here at first,” Streep recalled. “Before I made my decision, I actually made sure to reach out to a bunch of guys, specifically [Bucknell’s] seniors from that season. Not really to make sure if it was OK with them, but to ask them how they would feel about seeing me play for [Virginia], even if it was two years after the fact, because it’s one of those games you never forget.”
After a 4-0 run that included Streep’s three goals, Bucknell led 10-6 with 90 seconds left in the third quarter. The Bison still led by two goals with two minutes left in the fourth quarter. But the Wahoos rallied to force overtime and then won 87 seconds into the extra period on a goal by Matt White, now one of Streep’s teammates.
For Streep, the loss still stings.
“I thought that in coming here I would be able to somehow get away with talking about that game as little as possible,” he said with a rueful smile, “but that hasn’t been the case since I’ve been here.”
So why transfer to UVa then?
“I think a little bit of it just went back to my childhood,” said Streep, who’s enrolled in a one-year master’s program in the Curry School of Education.
“I’ve always had this kind of subtle infatuation with Virginia and the idea of playing lacrosse here. Even with my loss here with Bucknell, I’ve always had an interest in the place, and the idea of being a little further south and in a little warmer weather appealed to me.
“Bucknell was a smaller place. I like the idea of being in a bigger school environment, and I like just going around campus and really seeing different people every single day. And this is much more of a city, whereas Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, is a very, very small college town.
“It’s cool. It’s really been a fun experience. I’m glad I got to have it.”
Streep joined a team that finished 12-4 in 2012, a season that ended for the `Hoos with a loss to Notre Dame in the NCAA quarterfinals. In his three seasons at Bucknell, where he split time between attack and midfield, he totaled 76 goals and 28 assists.
“Charlie is a forceful offensive player who requires that you deal with him,” Virginia coach Dom Starsia said. “Those kind of guys are always valuable on offense. You can never have enough of those.”
Streep is still working his way into shape. After recovering from his ACL injury, he started fall practice with the Cavaliers, only to be sidelined about 2½ weeks in by a stress fracture in his left foot. He didn’t play the rest of the fall, and then in December he had arthroscopic surgery on his right knee.
“But I’m finally feeling close to 100 percent, for once,” Streep said early this month.
He’s playing middie at UVa, working mostly on the second line. “He’s running well,” Starsia said. “I thought it would be longer before we saw him even just look physically the way he looks right now. Now it’s just a question of him settling down a little bit and letting the game come to him a little more.
“If Charlie settles in a little bit, he could certainly play up on that first line. He’s a very mature kid and a forceful player. He’s going to play an important role for us. Like I say, he’s a little bit overanxious right now. It’s hard to tell him to be patient, but that’s what he sort of needs in his game. It’s the classic case of him needing to let the game come to him just a little bit, and I think that’ll happen as we get going here.”
Streep is from New Canaan, Conn., where as a high school player he was overlooked by Division I lacrosse programs. A torn ACL had forced him to sit out his junior season, “and I was a late bloomer, too,” Streep recalled. “My senior year of high school, I was about 5-foot-9 and 155 pounds soaking wet.”
He spent a postgraduate year at the Loomis Chaffee School in Windsor, Conn., where he started lifting weights with his roommate, Matt Kugler, who went on to play at UVa. Streep got bigger and better. Still, he said, “Bucknell was really the only school that recruited me.”
Starsia doesn’t remember him as a high school player, but Streep made a powerful impression on the Hall of Fame coach during Bucknell’s 2011 game in Charlottesville.
“He’s someone that doesn’t get intimidated by having the pole on him, and he carries the ball with confidence, and he’s somebody that makes things happen at the offensive end,” Starsia said.
Streep had to scramble to find housing when he arrived in Charlottesville last summer. He’s living with UVa baseball player Nate Irving, former baseball player Mitchell Shifflett and a member of UVa’s polo club, Todd Thurston.
“It’s quite an eclectic group of roommates,” Irving said with a smile Tuesday at Davenport Field.
The Cavaliers’ starting catcher is from Yonkers, N.Y., about 35 miles from New Canaan, so he and Streep “”know some of the same people,” Irving said.
Irving attended Riverdale Country School, which has a lacrosse team, so “I know a little bit [about the sport],” he said. “Can’t say I’m too good at it, though.”
Streep knows plenty about baseball. That’s the sport his father, Dana, played at Lafayette College. Streep played both baseball and lacrosse as a boy, but by the fifth grade he had a clear favorite.
His father didn’t object. “He actually fell in love with lacrosse the same time I did,” Streep recalled.
Dana Streep has two siblings, including an older sister who’s one of the most acclaimed actresses of all time. “We’re very, very close,” Streep said of his godmother.
That, of course, would be Meryl Streep, who attended a few of her nephew’s lacrosse games at Bucknell. He’s not expecting to see her in the stands at Klöckner this season, though, because the crowds there are much bigger than those at the Bison’s Christy Mathewson-Memorial Stadium.
His favorite of his aunt’s films?
“She’s really talented, and I pretty much like everything that she’s done,” Streep said. “I think The Devil Wears Prada is probably the funniest to see, because it’s just the complete antithesis of her personality, so it really showcases her talent, how she’s able to play a really mean and maniacal person.”
Streep isn’t sure if many of his new teammates are familiar with his family story. That’s fine with him.
“It’s kind of better that way,” he said. “She’s just kind of like a normal aunt to me.”