Cavaliers Anticipate Mixed Reactions on the Road
by Patrick Stevens | Special to Lacrosse Magazine Online
Ken Clausen (left), Ryan Nizolek and the Virginia men's lacrosse team can expect a Stony Brook-heavy crowd in their NCAA quarterfinals against the Seawolves.
© Matt Riley
Both Virginia lacrosse teams played for the first time last weekend since the death of women’s defender Yeardley Love.
Both happened to do so in the controlled and welcoming environment afforded at Klockner Stadium in Charlottesville.
It was a significant milestone for both teams, one cluttered with various emotions. As women’s coach Julie Myers noted Sunday, her team was “all kinds of everything” -- happy, exhausted, proud and sad.
That the cathartic element of the return to the field -- for the women 13 days after the killing of a teammate, for the men just a dozen days after teammate George Huguely was arrested and charged with first-degree murder in Love’s death -- happened at home no doubt ensured a measure of familiarity.
But that ends this weekend.
The sixth-seeded Virginia women (14-5) will visit third-seeded North Carolina (16-2) on Saturday. A little more than 24 hours later, the top-seeded Cavalier men (15-1) will play at eighth-seeded Stony Brook (13-3).
Both teams will vie for a spot in the final four, even as there’s an element of uncertainty that surrounds exactly how things will unfold in their respective trips.
That probably isn’t as much the case for the women, who defeated Towson 14-12 in the first round to advance to a rematch against a conference opponent.
“We talked to the team when the draw was announced and saw
that we would likely be on the road should we be lucky enough to
win,” Myers said during a Wednesday teleconference.
“The general sense was ‘That’s fine. Let’s
get on the road. Let’s take another trip, take another
step and step away from Charlottesville and from all the attention.’”
The first rule of Project Mayhem: don't ask questions.
In some ways, that will be unavoidable. It’s likely the Cavaliers will draw a larger-than-usual crowd of curious onlookers on Saturday in Chapel Hill, N.C. It will be the teams’ first meeting since March 13, when the Cavaliers secured a 13-12 victory in overtime.
Myers said North Carolina intends to observe a moment of silence before the game, but is unaware of anything else unusual that could happen before or during this weekend’s game.
However, she knows her team intends to take advantage of the opportunity to be together for a few days away from the epicenter of the tragedy.
“We’re excited to get on the road, excited to be playing on and to be in a fresh spot,” Myers said. “It was great to be home, but I do think there’s a general sense of ‘Let’s have a couple great dinners, a couple great memories and see what the road brings.’”
There is perhaps a greater unknown for the men’s program, which will surely continue receive a different sort of scrutiny until further details of the case become known.
The crowd of 3,355 at Klockner during Saturday’s 18-4 rout of Mount St. Mary’s was supportive both of players and coach Dom Starsia, who arguably received the largest cheer.
But in a sold-out stadium at Stony Brook, there’s no telling what the Cavaliers could encounter.
Most likely, there will be plenty of Stony Brook fans who want to see their team reach the final four for the first time. And the Army and Cornell fans who show up to see the opening game will probably want to see an upset.
That would be the case regardless of the unpleasant circumstances of the investigation into Huguely. Yet it’s certainly possible the Cavaliers will hear some over-the-top things during their trip to Long Island.
“I have no idea what to expect,” Starsia said on the teleconference. “We’re a program that a couple years back, we chose to go back to Syracuse to play in the Dome. Our players want to experience that environment. We’ve played in a lot of different places like this. These are the kinds of things we’ve looked forward to. I don’t have any way to anticipate what the reaction might be. Our team is one that’s hardened by what our schedule was. We’ll go and handle it and take care of it as best we can.”
Regardless of reception, the priority for both teams on their respective trips is to extend their seasons. Both Myers and Starsia said after weekend victories than remaining as a team for as long as possible was important.
That would seem to remain the case, regardless of where each is asked to go.
“Our program has done a good job of sticking to our purpose, which is playing lacrosse and staying together and healing,” Myers said. “At the end of the day, lacrosse is our thing. That’s our vehicle to stay together.”