The Cavalier Daily
Serving the University Community Since 1890

Rainy spring brings slippery time of ups-and-downs for Virginia sports

I missed it last year. Dom Starsia and his always- a-bridesmaid-never-a-bride band of Cavaliers deked and juked their way to the 1999 NCAA men's lacrosse title, past the national rivals that always used to trip them up just short - and I missed it.

Such are the consequences of those few weeks during finals each semester when the honest, hard-working folks who lovingly craft your Cavalier Daily each and every day succumb to the reality that they might actually have to study for those three-hour examinations looming on the horizon. We usually manage to salvage our grades to a certain extent, but those three weeks without the University's daily newspaper must be torture for our loyal readers - and not just the ones who can't get through government lecture without the crossword puzzle. How does anyone find out what's going on in Virginia athletics?

Lest you fall prey to the same gnawing, burning hunger for goals-against-averages and face-off percentages that consumed me last May, here's an idea of what to keep an eye on as you practice your promenade down The Lawn or gear up for another high-powered summer of lifeguarding at the local pool.

Lacrosse remains the place to look if national title aspirations are your primary concern. The Cavalier men haven't slipped a bit from last year's championship run, as evidenced by their No. 1 ranking and 10-game win streak. A season-opening overtime loss to second-ranked Syracuse stands as Virginia's only loss in more than a full calendar year. That's a span of 18 games, virtually all of which are against fellow championship contenders.

The Cav women, on the other hand, look more like the men's squads of a few years ago: never consistent enough make a serious charge at the NCAA throne, but just explosive and talented enough to pull off a win here or there to remind everyone why they deserve their spot in the top 10.

Julie Myers and her Cavaliers made a lot of noise after getting ousted by top-ranked Maryland in the ACC first round. They rationalized that at least they finally have learned through the tight 8-6 loss what they need to do to exorcise their Terrapin demons. Not so fast. The Cavs may be forgetting that even the best-laid plans require a team to execute.

The Virginia baseball and softball teams might not have NCAA title hopes (or even a chance of extracting themselves from the dregs of the ACC), but nothing beats them for pathos and tragedy.

On the men's side, coach Dennis Womack has seen his promising young baseball club degenerate into a maddeningly inconsistent mix of hard-luck veterans and wet-behind-the-ears rookies. The pitching staff has been especially frustrating, with one hurler battling the injury bug, another out of school for academic reasons and a third currently suspended until the coaching staff can properly figure out how to discipline him for cursing out an assistant coach. Womack already has moved three former infielders to the mound and recruited the team trainer.

The failures of the Cavalier softball team have been more surprising and more difficult to explain. Cheryl Sprangel has at her disposal a pitching trio consisting of two senior stalwarts and the reigning ACC Rookies of the Year. Four seniors and a junior anchor the lineup. Yet Virginia limps along at 10 games under .500 towards the end of a season that began with hopes of avenging last year's loss in the ACC Tournament finals.

Over in the world of white shorts and $200 racquets, the Virginia men's tennis team has fit nicely into the "Spahn and Sain and pray for rain" maxim Boston Braves fans employed in the late 1940s. The only problem is that for the Cavaliers, Johnny Sain is nowhere to be found.

Junior Brian Vahaly is ranked fifth in the nation - and could be higher if folks like top-ranked Daniel Andersson of VCU would come out and play - but Huntley Montgomery and the rest of the Virginia lineup have proven themselves spectacularly incapable of following Vahaly's victorious lead against top competition. An NCAA Tournament berth is a possibility, but Vahaly cannot carry the team past the first round.

Unless you can make it out to Lake Monticello tomorrow to watch the women's rowing team kick booty in the ACC Championships, it appears you'd best stick with Drew McKnight, Conor Gill, Ryan Curtis and the rest of the Cavalier laxers if you are looking for greatness.

Oh, and good luck getting through lecture Monday without the crossword.