Great Expectations

VIRGINIASPORTSDOTCOM
VIRGINIASPORTSDOTCOM

VIRGINIASPORTSDOTCOM
Great Expectations
By: Raj Sagar, Virginia Athletics Media Relations

On a gorgeous Saturday afternoon at Klockner Stadium, a record 7,579 saw what some consider the pinnacle of college lacrosse. The highly anticipated match-up featured the reigning national champion, No. 6 Johns Hopkins Jays against the No. 2 Virginia Cavaliers. By the time the last fans had made their way over from Davenport Field, after seeing Virginia baseball beat Boston College 5-4 in dramatic fashion, bodies were packed side-by-side under the scoreboard, on the hill, or anywhere else there was room to fit. Virginia and Johns Hopkins fans alike, as well as families, students, and young aspiring lacrosse players all came out to see the heavyweight match-up.

Although difficult to fully describe, the electric atmosphere is something head coach Dom Starsia tries to depict to players when they are on their recruiting visits.

“Coach Starsia took us out here on the field during our official visit, showed us the (Hoovision), and told us how the stands are filled with people going crazy,” said freshman midfielder Rhamel Bratton. “He told us, for the big games, even the hill would be full of people. It’s something you don’t really understand until you play a game with it and experience it, but it is surely one of the most memorable playing experiences I have had.”

The Cavaliers and the Blue Jays have dominated the college game recently, combining to win the last three national championships. The Cavaliers knew they were in for a tough game, given the fact that Hopkins had dropped it last two gamesboth in overtime.

“Coach [Starsia] stressed the importance of maintaining focus and poise in a game of this magnitude,” said freshman midfielder Shamel Bratton. “I would definitely say Hopkins is the best team we’ve played this year, despite the fact they recently lost to Syracuse and Hofstra. It was crucial for us to play disciplined, and make plays when opportunities presented themselves.”

It is only fitting that such a highly anticipated showdown,end with textbook execution on a brilliant goal. With 28 seconds to play in overtime, Shamel Bratton was able to push up, force a slide and get the defense moving. He then found sophomore midfielder Brian Carroll, who put it in the back of the net.

“If you can get the ball in Brian Carroll’s hands from about 12 yards away, you like your
chances at the end of the day,” said Starsia.

“It really is an amazing feeling to score that kind of a goal in such a big game,” said Carroll. “Shamel made a play, and was able to find me with room to shoot. Once I got the shot off, and it went in, it was an unbelievable feeling.”

Virginia opened the scoring at the 12:32 mark of the first quarter, with an unassisted goal from captain and senior attackman Ben Rubeor. Hopkins quickly answered, and as expected the scoring went back and forth the rest of the game, with the longest scoring streak being three by Virginia.

High expectations are no stranger to freshmen Rhamel and Shamel Bratton. Twins from Huntington, N.Y., the Bratton brothers were the top-two recruits coming into the 2008 season. Gifted with what seem like almost unnatural athleticism, as well as exceptional stick skills, the brothers figure to be a big part of Virginia lacrosse in the coming years. Against Johns Hopkins, they certainly lived up to their billing as they were involved in (either assisted or scored) six of Virginia’s 13 goals.

“Although they might get a lot of attention from the media, and already have such a high standard set for themselves, two players that are never affected by the hype are Rhamel and Shamel,” said Starsia. “Especially in a game like today’s, with such frenzy surrounding it, they were able to maintain their poise and deliver for us. I expect nothing less from them.”

After seeing them play so well, in what is sure to be one of the games of the year, fans, students, mothers, fathers, and ankle biting lacrosse players would collectively say “Neither do we.”