CHARLOTTESVILLE, VAThe old saying, “familiarity breeds contempt,” may not apply to this weekend’s ACC Men’s Lacrosse Tournament, but it is certainly true that all four participating schools know each other as well as they know their own. And with all four schools ranked in the top 12 in the polls, the event is likely to portent next month’s NCAA tournament. As the stakes rise with the onset of postseason play, coaches’ angst rises as well.
UVa is hosting the ACC Tournament at Klckner Stadium for the first time in five years. Top-seed Duke (13-1) squares off against North Carolina (8-4) in the first semifinal game at 5 p.m. Virginia (11-2) clashes with Maryland (8-4) following the first game. Game time is approximately 7:30 p.m.
“I think the players really enjoy (the tournament),” said UVa head coach Dom Starsia. “I think it’s a great opportunity for fans to see great lacrosse. With the Friday night doubleheader, what more could you ask for if you were a lacrosse fan? This year in particular all four teams are among the top teams in the country.
“There is a lot to like about (the tournament) as long as you are not one of the lacrosse coaches of one of these teams,” he chuckled.
Virginia faces Maryland in the second semifinal contest Friday night at Klckner Stadium, the first time UVa has hosted the tournament in five years.
“This game is certainly a challenge that we are going to look forward to,” said Starsia. “We are going to have our hands full with the Terps. They handled us the first time and I think we are looking forward to the opportunity to compete again.”
Maryland raced out to an early 3-0 lead in the team’s first meeting of the season and was rarely threatened on the way to a 13-7 win in College Park. The loss was the Cavaliers’ first of the season.
Since that game Virginia has made several changes that are likely to put a new wrinkle on this match-up.
Following the loss, Starsia replaced freshman goalie Adam Ghitelman with fifth-year senior Bud Petit. Petit has responded well by leading the Cavaliers to two wins in three starts, including an impressive performance in the overtime win at North Carolina when he saved 13 shots.
One area Maryland dominated in first meeting was face-offs. The Terps’ Will Dalton and Bryn Holmes combined to win 15 of 23 attempts. Since then freshman Garett Ince has moved ahead of Brian McDermott to take the majority of turns for UVa.
“I think we are a work in progress facing off, but I think we are getting better there,” said Starsia. “The last game with Maryland, in particular, we really got beat up in the middle of the field. That’s an area where I feel like if we can improve any, we are going to improve our situation.”
One of the things Starsia has impressed upon his team throughout the season is the need to play the full 60 minutes.
“I remember saying after the Maryland game the last time that we didn’t seem to be prepared to win that game neither 17-15 nor 7-6 and we’ve played a number of 7-6 games with Maryland over the years,” he said.
“I feel like we are better prepared now to play the game 7-6 if that’s what is going to required to be successful. The key for us is that we carry the play to our opponent for 60 minutes. If we have to score 17 goals or we need to score seven goals, that we are mentally prepared to do both of those things and adjust during the game to whatever the situation requires.”
Midfielders Peter Lamade and Rhamel Bratton led the Cavaliers with two goals apiece the first time against the Terps as UVa out shot Maryland 42-39. The attack of Ben Rubeor, Garrett Billings and Danny Glading combined for two goals (Rubeor, Billings) in the game. All three have notched at least 20 goals this season with Rubeor’s 26 leading the way.
The Cavaliers lead the nation in man-up offense by converting on 56.2 percent of their extra-man opportunities.
This is the fifth year in a row UVa and Maryland have met in the ACC Tournament, with the Cavaliers coming out victorious in the last two. They held off a late Maryland rally for an 11-10 win in last year’s semifinal and claimed the league crown with an 11-5 win two years ago.
Last year’s tourney game followed the recent postseason trend between the two school that has seen three of the last four ACC Tournament meetings being decided by one goal.
Capacity for Klckner Stadium is capped at 8,000 and fans planning to attend the ACC Tournament are encouraged to purchase tickets prior to game time. Tickets can be purchased via the UVa athletics department ticket office either online at VirginiaSports.com or by telephone or in person at Bryant Hall. The ticket office can be reached by calling 1-800-542-UVA1 between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. weekdays.
Advance sales at Bryant Hall for Friday’s semifinal games ends at 2 p.m. Game day sales will begin at 4 p.m. at Klckner Stadium.