March 17, 2013
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CHARLOTTESVILLE -- If anyone can empathize with what Dom Starsia is going through, it's Julie Myers.
Starsia coaches men's lacrosse at UVa, and his team has lost three games this season, each by a single goal. Myers coaches women's lacrosse at UVa, and her team's four losses include three one-goal defeats.
Since the most recent of those setbacks, however, the Virginia women have won two in a row, including a 9-7 victory over Princeton on Saturday afternoon at Klöckner Stadium.
"It got close," sophomore attacker Casey Bocklet said, "but when it came down to it, we did what we needed to do and we finished the game, and that's all that matters."
Bocklet, a transfer from reigning NCAA champion Northwestern, was one of four players with two goals apiece for the ninth-ranked Cavaliers (4-4) against the Tigers (3-2). She's the sister of Chris Bocklet, a high-scoring attackman who helped the UVa men win the NCAA title in 2011.
Chris Bocklet was one of the starters Starsia had to replace from a team that finished 12-4 last season after losing to Notre Dame in the NCAA quarterfinals. Also gone are three All-Americans: defenseman Matt Lovejoy, midfielder Colin Briggs and attackman Steele Stanwick, the leading scorer in UVa history.
Little has come easily this year for the ninth-ranked Wahoos (5-3), whose best player, All-America midfielder Chris LaPierre, has missed five games with a knee injury and been ineffective in the three in which he's appeared. Virginia's wins are over Drexel, VMI, Stony Brooks, Mount St. Mary's and Vermont. The Cavaliers have lost 9-8 in overtime to Syracuse, 12-11 to Cornell, and 11-10 to Ohio State, in the second game of the Saturday lacrosse doubleheader at Klöckner.
"We have a little less margin for error than in some years," Starsia said Saturday evening after the conclusion of a game that included a 103-minute lightning delay.
"I like this group, I like this team and we're working at it, and we just gotta continue to get better, so we can win this the next time the situation presents itself."
The `Hoos trailed 10-8 heading into the fourth quarter. Junior attackman Mark Cockerton passed to senior middie Matt White for the goal that made it 10-9 with 9:15 remaining. With two minutes left, 12th-ranked Ohio State had the ball and a one-goal lead. But UVa freshman defenseman Tanner Scales forced a turnover, starting a fast break that ended with sophomore middie Ryan Tucker's goal at the 1:48 mark.
As they had March 9 against Cornell, however, the Cavaliers quickly gave up what turned out to be the game-winning goal. UVa sophomore Mick Parks won the faceoff that immediately followed Tucker's goal, but Ohio State checked the ball out of his stick. The Buckeyes picked up the ground ball and then, in transition, Dominique Alexander beat Virginia goalie Rhody Heller with a shot that made it 11-10 with 1:31 left.
"I was going to call a timeout if [Parks had] taken two more steps and gotten in the box," Starsia said, "but he got checked before he got in the box and that got it going back the other way, and that was it."
Virginia had a chance to force overtime. An offsides penalty on Ohio State gave the `Hoos a one-man advantage for the final 26 seconds, but they failed to capitalize. Tucker found Nick O'Reilly open on the crease, but goalie Greg Dutton stopped the junior attackman's shot with five seconds left. The Cavaliers retained possession but, after a restart, could not get off another shot.
O'Reilly led UVa with a career-high four goals and also had an assist. Tucker had two goals, White had two goals and an assist, and Cockerton contributed a goal and two assists for a team that played from behind for much of the game.
"I just don't feel like we really got after it until the fourth quarter," Starsia said. "If we had played the first three quarters the way we did the fourth quarter, we probably wouldn't have found ourselves in this situation here at the very end. I give our guys credit for after the long delay coming out and getting after it. We just didn't get enough goals to actually win it."
The Cavaliers led 4-2 after the first quarter. But Ohio State's zone defense frustrated UVa as the game wore on.
"It just causes you to delay," Starsia said. "It causes you to be more patient than you'd like to be, perhaps. You want to attack quickly, you'd like a little bit better pace to the game, perhaps. Give Ohio State credit. It certainly slowed us down a little bit anyway."
Starsia said a decision on LaPierre, who is eligible for a redshirt year, may come this week. With or without their captain, the `Hoos are entering the most challenging stretch of their schedule. Their next four opponents: Johns Hopkins (March 24 in Baltimore), Maryland (March 30 at Klöckner), North Carolina (April 6 at Klöckner) and Duke (April 12 in Durham, N.C.).
"It's rough," O'Reilly said of the one-goal losses. "We work hard every week. I don't think it's that we're not working hard enough. We just haven't been coming out on the other side and getting the win. Hopefully we can get on a streak, starting next week."
Tucker said: "I have complete confidence in our team. We're playing great teams, and we're losing only by one goal. But at the same time we could definitely beat these teams too. We just need to work on those little things and not make those little mistakes."
Myers knows all about grueling schedules. Her team has lost this season to Maryland, North Carolina, Syracuse and Penn State, teams that are ranked Nos. 1, 3, 5 and 7, respectively, in the latest IWLCA coaches' poll.
"So we definitely kept it all in perspective in terms of the schedule we were playing," Myers said. "We knew it was tough. We also knew that we weren't getting it done, though."
The Cavaliers' four-game losing streak ended Wednesday, when they crushed William and Mary 18-5 at Klöckner. That boosted the confidence of Myers' team, which never trailed Saturday.
"Princeton is one of the best teams we've played," Myers said. "I thought they were very solid all over the field. They did enough to really keep us on our toes, so I think to be able to come out with a win is huge."
Of UVa's top six scorers this season, only Caroline McTiernan is a senior. Bocklet, Morgan Stephens, Courtney Swan and Dana Boyle are sophomores, and Ashlee Warner is a junior.
"And even Caroline doesn't have a ton of experience under her belt, even though she is a fourth-year," Myers said. "So it's a group that we know is going to keep getting better. I think they share the ball really well, which is exciting. So I feel like we're doing well and we've got lots of room to grow, and we've got all the right mindsets and personalities kind of blending together."
Bocklet said: "We're definitely a young team, so we're just trying to figure each other out. It will only just make us stronger in the end."
Next up for the UVa women is a Wednesday night game against JMU (5-1) in Harrisonburg.