April 20, 2013
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CHARLOTTESVILLE -- The UVa men's lacrosse team remains a long shot to earn a ninth straight invitation to the NCAA tournament. To even be eligible for a bid, the Cavaliers must win the ACC tournament next weekend in Chapel Hill, N.C., and they have yet to defeat a conference foe this season.
Still, the Wahoos will head to Tobacco Road with renewed energy after closing the regular season with an impressive effort in a must-win game for them. Had the `Hoos lost Saturday afternoon to Bellarmine, it would have been impossible for them to reach the .500 mark required for consideration for the NCAA tourney.
"On this day, at this moment, I'm happy to be going to Chapel Hill with something at stake," Virginia coach Dom Starsia said after his team blasted Bellarmine 12-7 at Klöckner Stadium.
"It'll give us a little edge on Monday in practice and a little something to shoot for. Again I think we just take this in small pieces, but I think something like this, frankly, gives us a real boost."
In the first ACC semifinal Friday, fourth-seeded UVa (6-7) will face top-seeded Maryland (9-2) at 5 p.m. at North Carolina's Kenan Stadium. The Terrapins defeated the `Hoos 9-7 at Klöckner on March 30.
"We talked a little bit about 2011," Starsia said. "We played Duke twice in a row, and didn't play very well, and then that Penn game gave us a real boost going into the playoffs."
The Cavaliers closed the 2011 regular season with an 11-2 rout of Penn, then went on to give Starsia his fourth NCAA title. (The others came in 1999, 2003 and 2006.)
"Every situation's a little bit different," Starsia said, "but we'll try to take this and run with it a little bit, and I think we all look forward to getting ready to play Maryland."
Unranked Bellarmine dropped to 7-5. The Knights don't have a high national profile, but they took top-ranked Denver to overtime before losing 11-10 on the road April 7.
"That was a tough team, Bellarmine," said junior attackman Mark Cockerton, who led Virginia with four goals and added an assist Saturday. "It was a good win for us, and hopefully we can keep it going."
For the `Hoos, the victory was their first since March 5, when they edged Vermont 12-10. It ended a six-game losing streak, the Cavaliers' longest in a season since 1939, and it came on an afternoon when they were without faceoff specialist Mick Parks. Moreover, starting midfielder Ryan Tucker, who like Parks is a sophomore, saw limited duty because of a shoulder injury.
To say the Cavaliers were happy -- and relieved -- when the final horn sounded would be an understatement.
"The truth of it is that it's a little bit of hallelujah," Starsia said, smiling. "There are times when the most unlikely game or win or situation can feel like the most important or the most meaningful, and [there was] a little bit of that today."
In a Senior Day ceremony before the game, UVa honored 10 players: Matt Cockerton (Mark's brother), Jacob Ghitelman, Daniel Lantz, Chris LaPierre, Conor McGee, Nick O'Reilly, Harry Prevas, Blake Riley, Charlie Streep and Matt White. Some of them rarely play, but all except LaPierre, who's redshirting this season while recovering from a knee injury, saw time Saturday.
"We really wanted to get it for our seniors," Mark Cockerton said. "It's their last game at Klöckner, and it's a good group of guys."
All season, Starsia has praised the work ethic and attitude of his players. Still, he acknowledged Saturday, when a team is losing, "it takes a little bit of a toll. So this has been a tough stretch for us. It kind of shakes you to your core a little bit. And so you have to sort of remind yourself about what's important and how you go about your business and focus on that. We've been doing that the last couple of weeks, but at the same time, hallelujah to get a win."
White, a starting midfielder, agreed.
"You're dealing with 18- and 22-year-old kids, college students, and we like to win," he said. "Everyone likes to win, and when you continue to lose, it's kind of a growing burden. But now we got one under our belts, I think we're headed in the right direction, so I'm excited about the ACC tournament."
O'Reilly had four assists and junior middie Rob Emery scored three goals. A more improbable hero for the `Hoos was Tyler German, a seldom-used sophomore from Centreville, Md.
In the absence of Parks, who returned home for a funeral this weekend, German took all but one faceoff Saturday, and he won 14 of 21 draws.
"Incredible," White said. "Kind of unfortunate circumstances for Mick Parks. He lost a close friend, and we're all feeling for him. We kind of put this one out there for him today and for all he's going through, and that's just kind of who we are. When one of us needs the help of our team, we just step up and support each other, and that's exactly what Tyler did today, and we're all really proud of him."
German took no faceoffs for the Cavaliers in 2012, when he was used as a reserve defensive midfielder. Before Saturday, he had appeared in only six games this season and was only 5 for 14 on draws. Starsia had other options if German faltered Saturday, but it never came to that.
"Tyler German has worked his tail off," Starsia said. "That was the message the last couple days, that we're not handing this to somebody. Somebody's going to have an opportunity here that has earned his way. It's nice to see somebody take advantage of it when that happens. Tyler German has been one of our hardest workers since the first day. We just haven't had the right circumstance, and today he stepped in and did a great job for us when we just had to have it."
German won 9 of 11 draws in the second and third quarters. "It was nice to get out there and play a little bit," he said.
The 12 goals were the most allowed this season by Bellarmine, which has an exceptional goalie in 6-foot-5 Dillon Ward.
"I thought you could see us,as the game went on, just have a little more confidence," Starsia said. "We just started to bang the ball around a little bit more, with a little greater confidence later in the game. So there was no doubt that we were tight coming in, with everything that's going on. The kids knew what was at stake here. We just needed to loosen up a little bit, which I thought we did as the game went on, and thank goodness for that.
"I'm really happy for the players, that they get a little break from what's been a little bit of an ordeal the last couple of weeks, and now we go into the last weekend with a shot at [the NCAAs], and that's about all you can ask for."
Virginia didn't take the lead for good until late in the third quarter, when O'Reilly passed to sophomore attackman Owen Van Arsdale for a goal that made it 5-4. By the end of the quarter, though, the `Hoos led 8-5, and they blew the game open in the final period. A goal by Streep, off a feed by O'Reilly, gave UVa its biggest lead (12-6) with 4:29 remaining.
"I would have liked to have been up 10-0 in the first quarter, but the fact that we had to battle, it kind of epitomized what the season's been like for us," Starsia said. "I give our kids credit for hanging in and making some big plays as the game went on."