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No. 6 team faces Seawolves

The No. 6 Virginia men’s lacrosse team travels to Long Island, N.Y. to face Stony Brook Saturday as it seeks its third consecutive victory to remain undefeated on the season . After their recent success at home against Drexel in the season opener and Virginia Military Institute Tuesday, the Cavaliers look to continue their winning streak in their first game away from Klöckner Stadium.

The Seawolves (1-1) have a history of providing tough competition for Virginia. The Cavaliers earned a narrow 10-9 win in an NCAA Quarterfinal matchup in 2010 before edging Stony Brook 11-10 in overtime in 2011 . Virginia earned a much more lopsided victory last year, winning 12-5 in the season’s third game, but the team is only focused on their play in their upcoming matchup against the Seawolves.

“Our life is about to get tougher starting with a trip to Stony Brook next Saturday,” coach Dom Starsia said. “We’ve had some great games with them in recent years. It’s important at this point in the season that we continue to improve, and we just want to go up and hopefully give a clean, hard effort.”

The Cavaliers began their pursuit of a second national title in three seasons against Drexel Saturday, marking the 12th consecutive season opener against the Dragons. Virginia featured a new-look lineup following several key departures, but produced a similar result, escaping with a 13-12 victory off of a game-winning goal by senior attackman Matt White in the first 11 seconds of overtime.

White has five goals in the team’s first two games after finishing the 2012 season with just 18 goals in his final 23 games. His game-clinching tally against Drexel was assisted by junior attackman Nick O’Reilly, who made his first appearance since the 2011 NCAA National Championship. O’Reilly redshirted the 2012 season due to a yearlong suspension, but he returned with a vengeance against the Dragons, scoring a career-high eight points to earn NCAA Offensive Player of the Week honors.

O’Reilly’s success continued this week against VMI as he added three goals and an assist in the 18-4 blowout victory. Junior attackman Mark Cockerton also provided an impressive performance, scoring a career-high six goals after sitting out the first game of the season due to a violation of team rules.

“Getting six goals gives you a lot of confidence, and confidence has been something that I’ve lacked over the last two years,” Cockerton said. “I feel like when I get confidence, I play a lot better and if I continue to have that confidence and keep scoring like I did today, I feel like I could play really well this year.”

Freshman goalie Dan Marino, who was named the No. 8 recruit in the country by Inside Lacrosse, has continued to impress in goal. He finished with 15 saves in the season opener against Drexel and three saves against the Keydets in one half of play. Marino’s early play is particularly impressive given his inexperience at the collegiate level, and he is only the seventh player in program history to start a game in goal as a true freshman.

Although the game against VMI featured impressive performances from starters such as Cockerton and O’Reilly — both of whom are expected to be major contributors for the Cavaliers this season — the entire active roster saw the field Tuesday evening. Nine different players contributed to Virginia’s 18 goals and even more contributed to the 64 shots taken against the Keydets.

“We have a lot of younger talent, we’re comfortable with anyone stepping in,” junior defenseman Scott McWilliams said. “We feel that everyone can get the job done, as long as we’re talking.” Every healthy Cavalier received playing time against VMI, but there was one notable player missing: senior All-American midfielder and captain Chris LaPierre. After a quiet game against Drexel in which he recorded two groundballs and took just two shots, LaPierre is reportedly being held out indefinitely with a sprained knee. As the team’s first solo captain since 1981 and the No. 2 overall pick in the Major League Lacrosse draft in 2013, LaPierre will certainly be missed on both ends of the field.

Virginia’s defenders will need to step up in the absence of the star midfielder. In a notable improvement from the season opener, Virginia had a stronger defensive showing against VMI, forcing 17 out of the Keydets’ 32 turnovers Tuesday.

“We focused on [defense] all week, more up-tempo stuff, talking more on defense, and getting slides up,” McWilliams said. “I think it showed in the game, definitely a step up from last week.”

The game against the Seawolves will begin Saturday at noon.


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