Stanwick spurs Virginia rout
Stanwick’s two goals, career-high-tying five assists leads No. 1 team to defeat of VMI, 19-5
After failing to notch a single point in a season-opening win against Drexel, heralded senior attacker Steele Stanwick exploded for two goals and a career-high-tying five assists to propel the No. 1 Virginia men's lacrosse team to a 19-5 trouncing of in-state foe Virginia Military Institute during its 2012 home debut.
Fellow All-American senior attacker Chris Bocklet added two goals and three assists, and junior attacker Matt Cockerton added four more points off the bench to contribute to an impressive showcase from the star-studded offense.
"There's no key to it except ball movement, guys just doing their job," Stanwick said of his team's offensive revival. "We were doing a good job of dodging and moving the ball and kind of getting them on the back side."
Virginia (2-0) improved to 19-0 all-time against the Keydets (0-3), winning the last 12 during coach Dom Starsia's term with nearly 19 goals a game. This contest, however, started alarmingly for the Cavaliers when VMI senior attacker Drew Leonard tucked the ball past senior goalie Rob Fortunato and into the left side of Virginia's net for a 1-0 lead. The score gave the Keydets' their first lead in the series since 1988.
VMI retreated into a densely packed man-to-man defense to frustrate Virginia's vaunted attack for the first half of the first period. With eight minutes seventeen seconds remaining, however, Stanwick nipped in from behind the goal to bury one into the upper right-corner for his first goal of 2012, and sparked a blistering 6-0 run which put the game out of reach for VMI. Virginia pushed its lead to 14-3 by halftime and removed most of its starters by the midway point of the third quarter.
"I don't think [Stanwick] cared one bit the fact that he didn't score in the first game, but he might have noticed anyway," Starsia said. "We take so much of our cue from him. He draws so much attention and opens the field for everyone else."
Seven other players also scored for the Cavaliers on a night rife with spectacular passing and clever cuts toward the goal which produced a relentless barrage of scoring opportunities.
With veterans Stanwick and Bocklet fusing with budding standouts such as redshirt freshman attacker Owen Van Arsdale and sophomore midfielder Rob Emery, the Cavaliers finally resembled the team many pundits regard as the prohibitive favorite for a second consecutive national title.
"I thought we moved the ball smartly almost throughout," Starsia said. "There's a chance for a game like this to kind of get away from you a bit, and I never thought it did. I thought we did a nice job moving the ball and moving our feet."
Stanwick, the reigning Teeaawarton Trophy award winner led the charge. His deft passing invoked memories of Virginia's electrifying NCAA Tournament run in 2011 as his career night gave him a staggering 14 assists in four career tilts with VMI.
Fortunato posted another solid effort between the pipes in his third career game against the Keydets, remaining cool during several dicey first-half moments which could have inspired VMI to stay in the game.
The Cavaliers fired 45 shots at Keydet senior goaltender Kelly McMinn and won the ground balls battle, 37-30.
VMI senior faceoff man Stephen Robarge, who notched the nation's highest faceoff conversion rate last season, gave Starsia's squad cause for concern. The Keydets won 20-of-28 faceoffs and may have exposed a potential vulnerability for the Cavalier juggernaut.
"We're just going to have to continue to work at it," Starsia said. "There's not a lot you can do if the kid's just beating you every time. It's an area of some concern for us, and we're going to have to get better at it."
Still, it was hard to find many faults with the Cavaliers' virtuoso performance. The home-crowd at Klöckner Stadium, where Virginia has not faltered since 2010, witnessed what may become one of the elite squads in the nation this spring.
"It's always great playing up here at Klöckner," Stanwick said. "It was a great night, great weather, great crowd, and it was fun."
Starsia, however, said he believes his loaded roster must elevate its level of play to withstand a diabolical midseason schedule.
"We're going to have our hands full. Things are going to get tougher," Starsia said. "We haven't been that sharp over the first couple of weeks, and I think tonight is a step in the right direction."
The Cavaliers return to action Saturday when they play host to Stony Brook.