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Looking for another title, lacrosse turns to its next line of stars

The Virginia men's lacrosse team ended its season May 27 with a 12-11 loss at the hands of Princeton in the NCAA semifinals. The loss marked the end of the careers of Cavalier senior captains Drew McKnight, Ryan Curtis, Jay Jalbert, Jason Hard and Peter Ragosa, as well as classmates David Bruce, Court Weisleder, Richard Reid, Doug Worthen, Bruce Townsend, Ben O'Neil and Duffy Birckhead.

"It's always special when you're a senior," Jalbert said. "I think it's more special. We accomplished a lot of our goals, but not our biggest one."

Despite the unsatisfying end to the season, the 2000 Cavaliers had a season most lacrosse teams only dream of. They won the ACC regular season and tournament championship despite playing only one conference game in the friendly confines of Klockner Stadium. They overcame a three-goal deficit in the first round of the ACC tournament and won in double overtime, then came back two days later to capture the conference title by beating Maryland on its home field.

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    The Cavaliers held the top ranking throughout the last portion of the regular season after rebounding from an opening day loss to Syracuse with 13 straight victories, which included wins over Princeton and Johns Hopkins, the other participants in the NCAA Final Four. However, the Cavs ended their season with the main goal unfulfilled.

    "The ultimate goal was not achieved," McKnight said. "I wouldn't call it a failure, but it wasn't a success. I don't know how to put an end to it."

    Coach Dom Starsia and his returning players now shift their focus to the 2001 season and another chase at the NCAA championship.

    The Cavaliers have several holes to fill to contend for the national title, but the biggest are on the defensive end of the field. Junior All-ACC selection Mark Koontz is the only returning starter, and top subs Reid and Worthen are gone, along with starters Curtis and Weisleder and long-stick midfielder Ragosa.

    Koontz and senior John Harvey were the only underclassmen to see significant playing time this season and are the surest bets to start in 2001.

    Of the team's young players, sophomore Trey Whitty saw the most playing time this year on defense, and may move to the midfield to replace Ragosa. Sophomores Ned Bowen and David Burman will also figure into the defensive rotation next season. Incoming freshmen Brett Hughes and Zach Heffner may get a look too.

    Junior goalkeeper Derek Kenney is a two-year fixture in the cage, but his spotty NCAA tournament performance raised questions about his future. The Cavaliers return no other goalies, but incoming freshmen Tillman Johnson and Ryan Thompson will push Kenney.

    The midfield is the deepest position for the Cavaliers, with seniors Hanley Holcomb, Jamison Mullen, Aaron Vercollone and Will Quayle all returning. Senior faceoff specialist David Jenkins, an All-American in 1999, also returns. However, only Holcomb is a proven scorer at the college level.

    Several sophomores saw playing time in the midfield this season, including A.J. Shannon, the team's leading freshman scorer with 22 points.

    Chris Rotelli, Andrew Faraone and Billy Glading also saw playing time in 2000 and will be called on to contribute next season. Freshmen Joseph Thompson, Ted Lamade and faceoff specialist Jack deVilliers may see playing time.

    Good faceoff play has been a constant for the Cavaliers the past two seasons, with Hard and Jenkins combining to win 63 percent of their faceoffs this season. However, the graduation of Hard casts doubt upon the prospects for 2001.

    Jenkins may find it more difficult to stay fresh and win faceoffs without splitting time with Hard. Many times this season, the Cavs wore opponents down in the faceoff circle, which will be difficult with the loss of its most durable performer. Another player, possibly deVilliers or senior James Kenny, will need to step up for the Cavs' faceoff men to maintain their high level of play.

    Attack is also a fairly stable position for the Cavaliers next season, with two starters returning in juniors Conor Gill, the Cavs' leading scorer last season, and Ian Shure, and McKnight the only significant loss.

    Mullen and Shannon may move to attack to add depth, and sophomore Derrick Preuss will see an increase in playing time.

    Incoming freshman Justin Mullen, Jamison's brother, is the only attacker the Cavaliers signed this season.

    With six starters, including three All-Americans, and several contributors graduating, it would be easy to say that 2001 will be a rebuilding season for the Cavaliers. However, the stellar class of incoming freshmen suggests that the phrase "not rebuilding, but reloading" applies to the Virginia lacrosse program.

    Princeton coach Bill Tierney said lacrosse experts pegged his team "too young and not good enough," adjectives that are apt to be attached to the Cavaliers next season. However, those 2000 Tigers advanced to the NCAA finals, a goal that is within reach for the Cavaliers in 2001.

    While the experts may write off the Cavs' championship hopes for next year, don't expect Gill, Koontz, Holcomb, Kenney, Shure, Shannon and the rest of the team to listen.


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