Virginia welcomes Drexel for season opener
Cavs lead all-time series 11-1, anticipate close matchup
The Virginia men’s lacrosse team opens its season Saturday against Drexel at Klöckner Stadium, making this the 12th consecutive year the squad is playing the Dragons to start the season. The Cavaliers come in ranked at No. 7 in the USILA coaches poll and No. 9 in the Nike/Inside Lacrosse media poll. After ending last season with an exit in the NCAA Quarterfinals, Virginia will seek to make a return to the tournament’s final four after reaching at least the semifinals every year from 2008 to 2011.
For Virginia, this will be the first game in four years without All-Americans Steele Stanwick and Colin Briggs, both of whom graduated last year. That senior class, in fact, accounted for a staggering 55 percent of the team’s total points in 2012. Still, coach Dom Starsia and the Cavaliers are confident that this year’s mixture of seasoned veterans and precocious youngsters can maintain the lofty standard Virginia fans have come to expect.
“I think everyone that’s out there is plenty capable of really remarkable things,” senior attacker Matt White said. “I think everyone that gets their shot is going to do a really good job, kind of like they’ve been doing in practice every single day. It’s no joke, if you practice hard it’s going to show up on game day, and everybody on both sides of the ball has been practicing really hard and some great things are happening out here.”
Senior midfielder and All-American Chris LaPierre, one the stars of the 2012 Virginia squad, is hoping to cap a remarkable career in style. LaPierre, the second overall selection in the 2013 MLL Draft and the first solo captain since 1981, is a force on both sides of the ball, especially in his ability to clear the ball out of the backfield. Arguably his most memorable game so far came in the first round of last year’s NCAA Tournament against Princeton, when LaPierre completed a 45-yard pass to Stanwick in the closing seconds of the first half that was converted into a goal, while later blocking a potentially-tying shot at the end of the game to seal the win.
Joining LaPierre as a senior midfielder is Bucknell transfer Charlie Streep. After sitting out the 2012 season with an injury, Streep opted to transfer to Virginia for graduate school and use his final year of eligibility.
“He’s a forceful offensive player, someone who’s going to force you to have to deal with him, so I expect him to really help us,” Starsia said. “It may just take him a little while to … catch up to the speed of the game, but before it’s all said and done I think Charlie is going to be a very impactful player for us.”
Boasting an 11-1 lead over Drexel in the all-time series, the Cavaliers will look to again exploit this familiar opponent at home, where they have a 5-1 advantage in the games.
Many of the meetings between the two teams have come down to the final stanza despite Virginia’s convincing edge in that all-time record. In the 2012 matchup, the two teams were knotted up at 5-5 in the second half before the Cavaliers eked out a 9-8 win in Philadelphia. The year before, the score was tied at 8-8 entering the fourth quarter before Virginia triumphed 12-9. The Cavaliers’ only loss in the series came in Charlottesville in 2007 when the game was relocated to the Turf Field from Klöckner Stadium due to weather.
Despite Virginia’s familiarity with the Dragons, Starsia is preparing for this matchup like he would against any potentially improved foe.
“You really can’t overdo the scouting piece of it,” Starsia said. “They’re going to have some new pieces, they’re going to have some new schemes, and I don’t want to make stuff up.”
Game time is set for 1 p.m., and Virginia’s next game will be on Tuesday at home against VMI.