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Virginia to face off against Virginia Military Institute

Matchup offers team learning experience, opportunity to correct this season's mistakes

The No. 7 Virginia men’s lacrosse team seeks its second win to open the year when it takes on visiting Virginia Military Institute Tuesday evening in a battle between the Commonwealth’s only two Division I teams. Virginia has won all 18 meetings between the two schools, cruising to a 19-5 home victory in last year’s game.

The season started for the Cavaliers (1-0, 0-0 ACC) last Saturday with a 13-12 overtime win against Drexel. Senior attackman Matt White scored 11 seconds into the extra period to earn the win for the home team. Junior attackman Nick O’Reilly, who redshirted last season, recorded a career-high eight points, including the assist that set up White’s game winner.

“We were excited to come in and play [that] game,” White said. “[Winning] in overtime against a really good team and a really good coaching staff — it’s a lot of fun.”

In the crease, freshman goalie Dan Marino earned his first career start, making 15 saves and denying several dangerous Drexel scoring chances. Since 1971, Marino is only the seventh goalie in Virginia lacrosse history to earn the starting position in his freshman year.

Up next for the team is the faceoff with the Keydets (0-2, 0-0 MAAC) for the eighth consecutive season. Although coach Dom Starsia is 12-0 against VMI since arriving at Virginia in 1993, he recognizes that past wins don’t always guarantee future success.

“I’ve watched some tape of them already, and we just want to make it another positive day for us,” Starsia said. “We need to get better every day, we just don’t have a day to waste.”

VMI fell to Army 14-8 on the road this past Saturday. Senior attackman Russell East leads the team in scoring on the year with five goals and one assist, with three of the goals and the lone assist coming against Army.

For Virginia, the focus will be not only on beating VMI but also on correcting the problems exposed in the opener against Drexel, including a lack of coordination on defense. With many of last year’s offensive powerhouses lost to graduation, a solid defense will be vital to the Cavaliers’ success.

“I thought that we were a step slow on defense, off the ball especially,” Starsia said. “I thought we did a pretty good job of covering those guys, but [there were] too many people inside off the ball, too many loose balls that turned into offensive opportunities for them.”

On the offensive end, the Cavaliers hope that White and O’Reilly can maintain the level of production they managed this weekend. The two attackmen combined for 12 of the team’s 22 points in the match.

Rectifying any problems and building on existing successes now could be a huge help for Virginia down the stretch, especially with five opponents in the second half of the schedule currently ranked in the top 10.

“[This is] just another game for us to get better,” O’Reilly said. “I think especially with our team this year, we have guys filling in new spots, a lot of new guys playing, so every game that we can get out there and work and improve means a lot.”

Faceoff is set for 7 p.m. Tuesday in Charlottesville.

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