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McKnight in shining armor

Faced with the departure of ACC Player of the Year Tucker Radebaugh, the Virginia men's lacrosse team has had to look elsewhere for offense and leadership as it defends its 1999 national title. Last year, attackman Drew McKnight played second fiddle to Radebaugh, but this year he has stepped into the full glare of the spotlight.

McKnight, a senior from Virginia Beach, piled up 25 goals and 22 assists and earned third team All-American honors last year, but he deferred to Radebaugh, who amassed 42 goals and 31 assists.

This season, McKnight has been the leading goal scorer in two of the team's four games, posting a pair of hat tricks to lead the No. 2 Cavs (3-1) in wins against Princeton and Rutgers.

McKnight has racked up 11 goals and 12 assists thus far this season, taking over for Radebaugh as the team leader in both categories.

"I think Tucker did a really good job last year," McKnight said. "We needed someone to step up and score, and as a senior he did that last year. This year, that role falls on me due to the fact that the ball winds up on my stick in the offense. It's not necessarily me doing something - maybe [senior midfielder] Jay [Jalbert] dodges, gets through, and I get the shots."

Along with Jalbert and sophomore attackman Conor Gill, McKnight has taken on the responsibility of leading the Cavalier offense, which has increased its scoring from one game to the next all season.

"Last year we lost Tucker, and we also graduated a lot of other leaders like Dave Barusch, Henry Oakey and Michael Leahy, who might not have scored all the goals but were a big part of the offense because they were moving the ball," McKnight said.

Since a 13-12 overtime loss to Syracuse in the season opener, the Cavs have created better scoring opportunities for themselves.

"I think in the Syracuse game we had a bunch of people standing around looking at each other, waiting for something to happen," McKnight said. "In the Princeton game and since then, as a team, we're moving the ball - maybe the first guy dodges, moves it two or three passes. That's what's going to beat the good teams [like] Princeton, Hopkins, Syracuse."

McKnight also has joined fellow captains Jalbert, defenseman Ryan Curtis and midfielders Jason Hard and Peter Ragosa as team leaders.

"With five captains, we've all kind of needed to take on a leadership role," McKnight said. "I think this early in the season we needed guys to step up. I don't necessarily think it's just myself."

McKnight's deflections of individual praise are an indication of his unselfish attitude, an attitude he has instilled in his teammates. From the All-Americans to the bench-warmers, McKnight makes clear to his teammates their value to the team.

"Drew's a very inspirational guy," freshman defenseman Ned Bowen said. "He's very positive all the time. He's always behind us, telling us 'You've got to hustle, you've got to do this, do that.' For me, just because I don't play a lot, he tells me I do play a part in the team by making him better every day in practice."

McKnight has also become more of a leader off the field.

"I think all of us have tried to take the younger players under our wing," McKnight said. Freshman attackman "A.J. Shannon ... is kind of new to the game in that he comes from Canada and played box lacrosse, which is indoor and very different. Occasionally, I'll take him aside and talk to him."

The newcomers to the team have the same respect for McKnight that he showed for Radebaugh and his Cavalier predecessors.

"The main thing he does for us, especially for the first years on the team, is lead by example," freshman middie Andrew Faraone said. "He doesn't take anything lightly. He goes full speed every time he's on the field"


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