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Cavs face Seawolves at home

Virginia looks to improve defense tomorrow in home game against Stony Brook

The No. 2 Cavaliers face the Seawolves of Stony Brook today, which are coming off a 21-goal offensive showing against Siena during their season opener Feb. 20.\n"They looked very impressive on tape," Virginia coach Dom Starsia said of the game.

Junior Jordan McBride scored eight goals for the Seawolves during the contest, while junior Kevin Crowley netted four and chipped in five assists.

This evidently high-powered offense will serve as an early test for the Virginia defense, which has struggled this season. During the Cavaliers' season opener against Drexel, the squad allowed four goals during the first quarter.

"I thought we were a little tentative on defense," Starsia said. "Ryan Nyzolek is not playing; Mikey Thompson wasn't playing in that game. So two of our starters on defense didn't play in the game at all, so we had two freshman in their place - that's not an excuse though."

Another weakness that could lead to more defensive challenges is Virginia's struggles controlling face-offs. Though the team has won 54.2 percent of face-offs this year, it only won 10-of-23 against Drexel - one of two ranked opponents the Cavaliers have faced. Moreover, the division of responsibilities for face-offs among three players has compounded the issue.

"I do think from all indications we are going to be good facing off," Starsia said. "More traditionally, you would have one great face-off guy. We have a little bit of a three-headed monster right now."

Even though Virginia had a similar face-off situation on its 2006 National Championship team, Starsia acknowledged that with three possibilities to take the face, it will take more attuned coaching to recognize who to send in.

Initially, it seemed as if Virginia's offensive effort would encounter challenges, as well. Perhaps surprisingly, however, the attack line has pulled through impressively.\n"Right now, everybody is reacting to who they think we are," Starsia said. "They are either sliding earlier to our middies or they are switching defensemen out to our middies, and our attack has been generally efficient in terms of finishing those opportunities. The question is: If they can cover our midfielders, are we dangerous enough at attack? And that's still a question to be answered."

Expecting a potent midfield from the Cavaliers, teams have brought one, or in some cases, two long-pole defenders from their normal positions guarding attackmen.

So far, Virginia's attack line, composed of two sophomores and one freshman, has responded well to opposing teams' strategy. The three starting attackmen - sophomore Steele Stanwick, freshman Connor English and sophomore Chris Bocklet - are the top three scorers on the team, combining for 14 of the team's 26 goals.

"I think each game, we get a little bit more comfortable," Stanwick said at the season's start.

After facing Stony Brook Saturday, the Cavaliers will take on defending national champion Syracuse March 7.


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