April 19, 2014
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CHARLOTTESVILLE -- Whether the UVa men's lacrosse team gets to play again at Klöckner Stadium this season is still to be determined. The Cavaliers know, however, that they're not locks to host an NCAA tournament first-round game. And so Senior Day at Klöckner Stadium took on heightened significance for Virginia.
"Knowing that this could be the last game we ever play at Klöckner, it definitely added an edge to every second we're playing out there," said senior midfielder Bobby Hill, one of 12 players honored before UVa's game with Bellarmine. "We just want to get everything right."
The Wahoos were far from perfect on a blustery spring afternoon, but they dominated the second half and won a game they couldn't afford to lose Saturday. Senior attackman Mark Cockerton scored four goals, and junior midfielder Ryan Tucker added two goals and an assist as UVa ended a three-game losing streak with a 12-8 victory over Bellarmine.
"This place is probably the best facility for lacrosse in the country, and we've had a lot of great experiences here," said Cockerton, who leads the `Hoos with 41 goals this season. "We're hoping it's not our last game here, but if it is, I'm going to miss this place. It's been a treat."
After the Cavaliers went up 3-1 Saturday, their focus waned, and Bellarmine battled back to take a 6-5 lead. Redshirt sophomore Greg Coholan and Tucker answered for the Cavaliers, who went into the break ahead 7-6, but nobody in the home locker room was especially happy.
"I was disappointed in how we played overall, especially in the first half," UVa coach Dom Starsia
said. "But it sure does feel good to get a W, after the stretch that we've been through."
After defeating Johns Hopkins 11-10 in overtime March 22, UVa hammered VMI 21-3 two nights later. But losses to Maryland, North Carolina and Duke -- teams then ranked Nos. 4, 5 and 2, respectively -- followed for the Cavaliers.
"You know, you can only go to the emotional well so many times," Starsia said. "We've been dipping from that well a lot in the last couple of weeks. And so I knew that we were going to be scratching for a little bit of an effort [against Bellarmine]. I thought our kids worked at it in practice, but I didn't think we started off the game very sharp. But again, I'm happy that we got the W."
In the extraordinarily strong ACC, ninth-ranked UVa (9-5) is one of the two teams that didn't qualify for the conference tournament. The other is seventh-ranked North Carolina (10-3).
In what the league is calling the ACC Showcase, Virginia and UNC will clash next Saturday at 7:30 p.m. in Chester, Pa. A win at PPL Park would make Virginia a legitimate candidate to host a first-round game in the NCAA tourney.
In the teams' regular-season meeting, April 5 in Chapel Hill, the Tar Heels scored the final two goals and won 11-10.
"We definitely are happy with playing them instead of Syracuse," Hill said.
Hill, a short-stick defensive middie, was a freshman on the UVa team that in 2011, after struggling for much of the regular season, entered the NCAA tournament as the No. 7 seed. Those Cavaliers, of course, went on to win the NCAA title -- their fourth under Starsia.
"Obviously every team's different, but we are trying to draw some comparisons to that team," Hill said. "It's the same type of thing that turned us around that year -- the Penn game [on] Senior Day. We came out after getting crushed by Duke and really turned our season around."
UVa's starting goalie in 2011 was a senior, Adam Ghitelman. Freshman Matt Barrett has started every game in the cage for the `Hoos this season, and he sparkled against Bellarmine (6-5), making 13 saves.
"I think he's had a very solid freshman year, and hopefully we're at the point where we're getting ready to play some real lacrosse over these next couple weeks," Starsia said. "We're going to need him to step it up to the next level, and I think he's quite capable."
In his previous start, against Duke, Barrett got little help from his defense and allowed 12 goals. Barrett made only three saves, and midway through the third quarter Starsia replaced him with sophomore Dan Marino.
"It was rough after the Duke game, but I just tried not to think about it, which is hard," Barrett said Saturday. "That was first time I can ever remember getting pulled [at any level], at least for that reason. But I understood why Coach did it and everything. I wasn't mad about it. I just wasn't playing well."
Starsia didn't hesitate to start Barrett against Bellarmine.
"I didn't feel like in the Duke game that really there was anything that was his fault," Starsia said. "I just felt like making that change at that point, I was hopeful that we would get a little spark coming off the bench. He wasn't getting to the balls against Duke, but they were really tough shots. And so I don't really have any quarrel with Matt. He's having a really good freshman year. And a couple of the games that we've won over the course of the season -- think back to Drexel and Johns Hopkins and some of those -- we've won because of his play. And he stepped up today and played very well."
As a freshman in 2008, Ghitelman started UVa's first 10 games before losing his job to Bud Petit, a fifth-year senior. The pressure on a freshman goalie can be enormous, Starsia said, but Barrett for the most part has seemed impervious.
"He's the most unflappable kid I've ever been around," Starsia said.
Barrett said: "The way I play, I guess, I don't get too high or too low."
A graduate of Malvern Prep in the Philadelphia area, the 6-0, 220-pound Barrett is "like a big teddy bear," Starsia said. "We've continued to ride him, and I think he's capable of doing what he did today on the big stage, and we're going to need that as we go forward."
Barrett's classmates include midfielder Zed Williams, who had two goals and two assists last weekend against Duke. Williams did not play against Bellarmine, Starsia said, because he showed up late for the game.
Even without Williams, the `Hoos had too much firepower for the Knights. In addition to Cockerton and Tucker, offensive standouts for Virginia included sophomore attackman James Pannell (two goals), freshman attackman Ryan Lukacovic (one goal and one assist) and Coholan (one goal and one assist).
"We could have played a lot better today," Hill said, "but just to get that win, get a win again, is a great feeling after those three losses."
Cockerton said: "The feeling of winning, there's nothing like it."