Oct. 19, 2006
by Kyle Rudzinski
Student Assistant, UVa Athletics Media Relations
Winning a championship in any sport takes the right combinations of things to happen. For UVa's 2006 men's lacrosse team, all of those factors came together on the road to the NCAA title.
All athletes strive to achieve perfection. It might come as a perfect pass or a perfect shot, but for most, perfection is ephemeral at best, a snapshot during a game. Last spring the UVa men's lacrosse team was perfect in the category that mattered most: wins and losses. At a perfect 17-0, the `Hoos won more games than any undefeated team in the history of collegiate lacrosse.
The 2006 Cavaliers didn't simply win the national championship; they dominated almost every team they faced throughout the season. Aside from a one goal victory at Princeton, the `Hoos won every game by at least four goals en route to the sixth national title--the second in the last four years--in program history. The complete domination appears not just in game film, but on paper, too, as the team led the nation in scoring (15.82 goals per game) and margin of victory (8.24).
With such success on the field, it's natural to expect significant recognition. The `Hoos featured eight All-Americans, including the Tewaaraton Trophy winner for the nation's top player, as well as three USILA Scholar All-Americans, more than any other school. Later this month the team will travel to the White House to be recognized by President George W. Bush. In September, the Cavaliers visited the Governor's mansion in Richmond where Tim Kaine lauded the team's success.
"This lacrosse team really captured everybody's imagination," Governor Kaine said. "Not just winning the national championship, but to go through that kind of schedule undefeated, that really says something. I love to celebrate sports teams that do well, but particularly when you can combine a team that's achieved on the field, but also shown character and academic success off the field, that really makes it a lot fun to bring this national championship here."
Annually, the team volunteers its assistance for the Special Olympics Benefit Race along with the women's lacrosse and women's swimming teams. Governor Kaine noted that "what says even more [than winning national championships] is the kind of people [Coach Dom Starsia has] turned out in this program."
Defensemen Jared Little attributed a large part of the team's achievement to its character.
"Rarely did we talk about [being undefeated], because it didn't matter," Little said. "We thought it was great, but since we worked so hard, we legitimately felt that we deserved it. We weren't prideful, but grateful for it. It didn't define who we were. The character of our team carried us through."
With such a rich history, the men's lacrosse team has high expectations as it's considered one of the favorites for the national title almost every season. What came unexpectedly was such a magnificent run. Starsia noted that "the whole undefeated thing snuck up on [the team], but to come in here as expected and do this is a very special moment for our program."
In his fourth-year, co-captain and USILA Player of the Year, Matt Ward commented on surpassing the typically lofty expectations for the lacrosse team.
"Going 17-0 was not something anyone expected us to do," Ward said. "Once we got rolling this season we really wanted to [go undefeated]."
Little also believed from the start of the season that such success was possible.
"We knew we were good enough to win a national championship, but it was a matter of doing it," Little said. "We had the talent and the intellectual capability. It was just finishing what we started."
For last season's fourth-years, winning a national championship brought their collegiate career full circle as they won the title as first-years in 2003. However, this title was all the more gratifying after missing the playoffs in 2004 and losing a heartbreaker to Johns Hopkins in the 2005 NCAA semifinals.
"It was different winning as a senior as opposed to doing it as a freshman, because you value it more," Little said. "You appreciate the other seasons and all the work that carries over from the previous years. It was a great way to end our careers, because there's no better way to go out than by winning a national championship."