Virginia pummels VMI, 18-4
The No. 6 Virginia men’s lacrosse team dismantled Virginia Military Institute Tuesday night at Klöckner Stadium, dominating throughout an 18-4 triumph, while also playing its entire active roster.
“Part of the opportunity here with a game like this is for guys to get out there,” Virginia coach Dom Starsia said. “Everybody wants to play on game day and I want guys to play, so it’s nice that we can reward all the early season work with having some guys get out here … in front of their parents.”
In the midst of the widespread success, some young players stood out Tuesday night for the Cavaliers (2-0) and may have made a strong case for more minutes.
“There were some things out here tonight that were telling for some of the young guys that are trying to get in the lineup,” Starsia said. “[Freshman attackman] James Pannell saw his first big minutes … But I think [sophomore attackman] Carl Walrath in particular did a nice job.”
VMI (0-3) got on the board first after Virginia sophomore long stick midfielder Tanner Ottenbreit was called for a trip and sent to the box for one minute. On the ensuing man-up possession, junior attackman Bernie Mowbray blew a heater by freshman goalie Dan Marino. The 1-0 advantage would be the only Keydet lead of the game.
Ottenbreit redeemed himself soon thereafter by forcing a turnover that created a transition opportunity culminating in junior attackman Nick O’Reilly scoring off an assist from junior defenseman Scott McWilliams to tie the score.
McWilliams then created a turnover of his own a few minutes later, which led to another unsettled goal when O’Reilly lobbed a cross-field pass to sophomore defenseman Greg Danseglio who quickly found junior attackman Mark Cockerton for the goal to make the score 2-1. It was the first of Cockerton’s career-high six goals on the day in his season debut after a one-game suspension for a violation of team rules.
“It was my first game of the season, and I’ve been working really hard for this moment,” Cockerton said. “Today I just made my shots, it doesn’t always happen but today I did and I was thankful for that.”
Within a minute of taking the lead, O’Reilly and Cockerton each scored an unassisted goal for each of their second goals of the night. After the referees initiated the stall warning against Virginia, junior midfielder Rob Emery promptly found the back of the net on an assist from redshirt sophomore attackman Owen Van Arsdale with 59 seconds left in the first quarter. Van Arsdale tallied his second assist 30 seconds later by finding Cockerton, who stepped in and fired a shot past senior goaltender Matt Lindeman to end the first quarter up 6-1.
The Cavaliers dominated the game in the second quarter, scoring five goals and shutting down the Keydet offense. Emery opened up the quarter with a hard bounce shot at the 11:31 mark on a Walrath assist, and after a failed VMI clear Cockerton picked up the loose ball and easily scored one-on-one against Lindeman while Virginia was man-down. Cockerton recorded another goal less than two minutes later on an assist from freshman attackman James Pannell for his fifth goal of the contest.
“Mark has been one of our best players since the beginning of the year offensively and we need him to continue to step up and play like that,” Starsia said. “I think he’s capable and I think he’s on the cusp of having a big season for us.”
Van Arsdale notched a goal at 7:36 of the second quarter and again after a six-minute lull in scoring to go up 11-1 heading into the break. The strong first-half showing on defense was a marked improvement from Saturday’s game against Drexel, when the Cavaliers gave up numerous goals right on the crease.
“We wanted to come out stronger than we did last week against Drexel; we knew [that] wasn’t our best performance and we knew we had to get better,” McWilliams said. “We focused on it all week — more up-tempo stuff, talking more on defense, getting slides on — and I think it showed today in the game, definitely a step from last week.”
McWilliams had a career-high seven ground balls on the night, as well as an assist and two caused turnovers. The defense, which caused 17 of VMI’s 32 turnovers on the night, shut the Keydets down again in the third quarter as Starsia gradually started working younger players in on both sides of the field. Though VMI opened up the final quarter with two early goals, as well as another at the 5:12 mark, Starsia was happy with his defense’s play on the night, which included holding the Keydets scoreless for a 44-minute stretch.
“I actually said in one of the time outs, ‘I want VMI to have the ball,’ because I wanted us to go through the exercise of it,” Starsia said. “I just thought we were much more attentive tonight than we were on Saturday and that’s a step in the right direction. And we need to continue to get better there as we move forward.”
O’Reilly scored in the third quarter to finish with three goals and an assist and Cockerton recorded his final goal after picking up a Van Arsdale rebound. Sophomore midfielder Ryan Tucker and senior midfielder and attackman Matt White also got on the board in the third, while redshirt freshman midfielder Greg Coholan, sophomore attackman Taylor Michel and freshman midfielder Matt Florence each recorded their first goals on the season, the latter two off of assists from Pannell.
Virginia outshot VMI by a 64-25 margin, and the score could have been even more lopsided had Lindeman not recorded a career-high 24 saves against the Cavaliers’ offensive onslaught.
“He’s a monster, that kid,” Starsia said of Lindeman. “If he wasn’t filling up so much of the cage we probably would’ve had a bunch more. He certainly earned his keep tonight.”
Nine different players scored goals for Virginia while seven contributed assists for an offense that returned only a few faces from last year’s squad.
“We don’t really have that superstar guy like we did the last few years, so … we work the ball around really well and everyone gets a look,” Cockerton said. “I think it’s even harder to guard because everyone’s getting in the action and we have a really good team chemistry.”
The Cavaliers will now travel to New York to faceoff against Stony Brook Saturday.