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Virginia readies for rival Blue Jays

Nation's top two teams go head-to-head, put undefeated records on the line

Two powerhouses clash tomorrow as the No. 1 Virginia men's lacrosse team hosts No. 2 Johns Hopkins.

"This is definitely a game we circle on our calendar," senior attacker Chris Bocklet said. "One versus two: It really doesn't get any better than this."

The matchup features two of the most dominant programs in college lacrosse history. Out of the 41 national championships awarded since the NCAA began sponsoring a tournament in 1971, the Cavaliers (8-0) and Blue Jays (7-0) hold 14 titles between them. Virginia has appeared in the tournament 34 times, second-most in the country, behind only the 40 NCAA bids of Johns Hopkins. The Blue Jays missed the inaugural tournament but have been part of the field every year since. And the Cavaliers have played no other opponent more often, with tomorrow's game marking the 85th meeting.

"Part of the fun of being a college lacrosse player [and] coming to the University of Virginia is that we play in some games like this," coach Dom Starsia said.

The on-field battle pits Virginia's high-scoring attack against the stingy Blue Jays defense. Netting an average of 13.38 goals per game, the Cavaliers have the country's fourth-best offense. The offensive unit boasts deep talent, with five players scoring in the double digits.

The Blue Jays' second-ranked defense, however, gives up only 5.29 goals per game. Much of their success has come from restricting opponents' ability to shoot, allowing less than 14 shots on goal per game.

"Looking at their defense, all their guys are 6'2", 6'3", over 200 pounds," Bocklet said. "One of the keys for us is offensively just to keep moving the ball and don't remain stagnant, and we just got to keep them moving their feet."

Taking on their closest competitor for the No. 1 national ranking, the Cavaliers continue to embrace the challenge of leading the pack. They have been at the top of the polls since the preseason and have stayed there by remaining undefeated.

"I think we get everyone's best shot," senior attacker Steele Stanwick said. "I think we've kind of seen that throughout my career here. Most of the time we get everyone's best shot, and that's something... we welcome."

Despite Virginia's unblemished start, Starsia sees tomorrow's game as an opportunity for improvement.

"The final result of this game has less to do with how the season's going to turn out than sort of identifying who we are and what our issues are," Starsia said. "That might be the most valuable piece of information that comes out of here."

The general theme for Virginia this season has been progress. As the Cavaliers proved last year, the national champions will be whoever plays best at the end of the season, not in the middle. Nevertheless, nothing would show more growth than a win against the Blue Jays.

The matchup holds another meaning for Stanwick. Not only will he face Johns Hopkins for the final time in his brilliant career barring a tournament confrontation between the squads, but he will also play against his younger brother Wells, a freshman attacker for the Blue Jays. Normally, the two brothers talk to each other about their games and share tips, but their discussions have taken on a different tone during the lead-up to their encounter.

"This week we haven't talked as in-depth as we usually have," Steele Stanwick said. "This week I think we're sticking to our guns."\nSteele said many of his family members will be on hand to witness the showdown between the brothers. His father, who customarily stands behind whatever goal Steele is trying to score on, will stand at one end the entire time to watch both his sons on attack.

With so many subplots and the nation's top ranking at stake, the Cavaliers understand they are likely in for a barn-burner.

"It's this week's 'Game of the Century,'" Starsia said. "I don't think we've played our best game yet, and that may be required on Saturday."\nFace-off is slated for 2 p.m. at Kl