Spring Recap Roundtable: The most pressing questions in Virginia sports

Recapping spring sports’ seasons and taking a look ahead to the summer

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Junior attackman Michael Kraus has 31 goals and 23 assists this season.

Courtesy Virginia Athletics

With the spring sports’ seasons winding down, the CD Sports staff breaks down title prospects for teams still competing and looks forward to some of the storylines for Virginia athletics this summer.

What spring sports team has the best shot at winning a national title?

Zach Zamoff, Sports editor: Men’s lacrosse is one of the best teams in the country. With an improved defense, a multidimensional offense and a knack for winning in the clutch — the Cavaliers (12-3, 3-1 ACC) are undefeated in overtime this year, with three wins — this team has a chance to win it all. Virginia’s most recent win in dramatic fashion against North Carolina in the ACC Tournament semifinals shows the Cavaliers’ mettle with the pressure on. Sophomore attackmen Matt Moore and Ian Laviano and junior attackman Michael Kraus comprise perhaps the best attacking trio in the nation, with 107 goals and 64 assists combined this year. Add to that junior midfielder Dox Aitken’s deadly long shot, senior midfielder Ryan Conrad’s hustle and steady leadership and a cohesive defensive unit, and you have a title-contending team.

Alex Maniatis, senior associate: The No. 5 Virginia men’s tennis team is back among the best in the collegiate circuit. In the second season under Coach Andres Pedroso, Virginia is playing at a high level, a level expected of a program that won four national championships between 2013 and 2017 and thirteen straight ACC Championships from 2004-16. In the competitive ACC with other top-10 teams in Wake Forest and North Carolina, the Cavaliers managed to reach the final of the ACC Championships and performed well, despite falling to the higher-ranked Demon Deacons in a hard-fought match. A combination of experienced veterans, led by No. 5 junior Carl Soderlund, and young talent, led by No. 82 freshman Brandon Nakashima, has propelled Virginia to success. Virginia men’s tennis is in prime position to take the title at the NCAA Championships this May.

Who is your most valuable player from a spring sport this year?

AM: Junior triple jumper Jordan Scott has successfully made the leap to a world-class track and field athlete in 2019. Entering the 2018-2019 indoor season, Scott was already the school record holder and 2017 indoor ACC Champion. This year, however, he has performed at a new level. This year, Scott became indoor ACC and NCAA champion, set his own ACC and Virginia record and was named the USTFCCCA Southeast Regional Field Athlete of the Year. After a month of recovery and training for outdoor field, Scott jumped 17.07 meters in his season opener last weekend. The mark smashed his own Virginia record, set the new ACC record by 0.23 meters and places him atop the NCAA. Scott is currently the only NCAA triple jumper to break 17 meters this season. Among the best in the world, Scott is the favorite to sweep the triple jump again in both the ACC and NCAA outdoor championships later this year.

Vignesh Mulay, senior associate: Junior attackman Michael Kraus has been a consistent contributor for the Virginia men’s lacrosse team during his first two seasons. However, the Connecticut native has truly demonstrated this season that he can lead a national contender to success. Statistically, Kraus leads the ACC in points with 4.50 per game and shots with 10.08 per game and is fourth in scoring with 2.58 goals per game and assists with 1.92 per game. Beyond the numbers, Kraus’ energy, leadership and relentless persistence have all contributed to Virginia’s season thus far. 

Colin Cantwell, Sports editor: Sophomore shortstop Tanner Morris has started every game for the baseball team this season, leading the team with a .347 batting average and five home runs. He’s been joined in the infield by freshman third baseman Zack Gelof and freshman second baseman Nic Kent, who are third and fourth on the team in batting average, respectively, and Kent leads Virginia with 37 RBIs. While Virginia baseball has not been the dominant force it once was, Morris will continue to lead the Cavaliers through at least next season.

With the spring semester and spring sports schedules coming to a close, what is the biggest storyline for Virginia athletics heading into the summer offseasons?

VM: After a breakout season for Virginia football, which saw the program win its first bowl game since 2005, the Cavaliers will be looking to build on the foundation Coach Bronco Mendenhall has built in Charlottesville. Virginia won just two games in Mendenhall’s first season as head coach but increased that total to six in 2017 and improved even more last season with eight wins. With key players returning like senior quarterback Bryce Perkins and senior cornerback Bryce Hall, Virginia will be looking to take the next step and win the ACC Coastal division.

CC:  With four of five starters from the national championship game declaring for the NBA Draft, it will be interesting to see how Coach Tony Bennett fills the void that they left behind. Bennett now has extra scholarships at his disposal for a graduate transfer, traditional transfers like former Marquette forwards Sam and Joey Hauser or another 2019 recruit like recently reclassified guard Johnny Juzang. Virginia lacks depth at the guard positions for next season, and it remains to be seen whether Bennett will bring in another player or two or rely on someone already on the roster to step up and fill those minutes.

ZZ: Bennett is quietly building an NBA pipeline in Charlottesville. Rather than following the one-and-done path, Virginia’s NBA players gain invaluable experience developing under Bennett. The success of Joe Harris, league leader in three-point shooting percentage and NBA three-point shooting contest winner; Malcolm Brogdon, point guard on the team with the best regular season record in the NBA; and Mike Scott, who is playing a key role for the Sixers off the bench, is a testament to the NBA readiness of Bennett’s players. Watching the outcome of the NBA Draft for junior guards Ty Jerome and Kyle Guy and sophomore guard De’Andre Hunter, a projected lottery pick, will be fascinating, in addition to seeing their development as pro players in the NBA Summer League and in their rookie seasons.

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