January 22, 2013

#LMranks: No. 9 Virginia Cavaliers (Men)

by Joel Censer | LaxMagazine.com | Twitter | Team Page/Schedule


Look for Cavaliers team captain Chris LaPierre to play on Virginia's first offensive midfield line this season.
© Lee Weissman

Lacrosse Magazine is counting down its preseason rankings throughout the month of January exclusively on LaxMagazine.com.

Today continues a look at our NCAA Division I Top 20 rankings. For more, visit LaxMagazine.com/LMranks. Follow @LacrosseMag on Twitter and Tweet using the hashtag #LMranks. The countdown will resume Wednesday with profiles of the eighth-ranked teams in NCAA Division I men and women.

Power Ratings

Offense: 4*
Defense: 4
Goalkeeping: 3
Faceoff: 3
* Out of 5

Top Returner

M Chris LaPierre (Sr.)
During his Virginia tenure, LaPierre has established himself as a dominant defensive midfielder and between-the-lines savant. In 2013, Division I's resident ploughhorse will add "first-line midfielder" to his long list of duties. "He's going to play more offense in 2013 than his first three years combined," Virginia coach Dom Starsia said. LaPierre is also Virginia's first solo team captain of the Starsia era.

X-Factor

M Charlie Streep (Sr.)
A former All-American attackman at Bucknell, Streep missed all of last year with a torn ACL. Now a graduate student after transferring to Virginia, Streep dealt with some lingering injuries in the fall but could provide the Cavaliers with an explosive initiator in the half-field.

What's New?

Sophomore Rhody Heller and freshman phenom Dan Marino look to take over for Rob Fortunato in net. Heller played most of the fall minutes after Marino broke his thumb during the team's second practice. "It's probably the biggest question mark for us coming into the season," Starsia said.

What's Not?

If the new rules put a premium on short-sticks who can play defense and wreak havoc in transition, the Cavs are well covered. LaPierre, Bobby Hill and Blake Riley, who suffered an Achilles injury in 2012, all return as veteran sparkplugs.

2012 Recap

#LMranks MD1 Preseason Countdown

No. 20 Bryant
No. 19 Hofstra
No. 18 Fairfield
No. 17 Villanova
No. 16 Yale
No. 15 Princeton
No. 14 Penn State
No. 13 UMass
No. 12 Syracuse

No. 11 Colgate
Monday: No. 10 Lehigh
Tuesday:
No. 9 Virginia
Wednesday:
No. 8
Thursday:
No. 7
Friday:
No. 6

More: Countdown schedule | WD1 | MD2 | WD2 | MD3 | WD3 | JuCo | MCLA | WCLA

Record: 12-4 (2-1 ACC)

In a Nutshell: Virginia stayed the course: relying on the same grinding, half-field approach that buoyed them to the 2011 national championship. By the end of the season, however, the Cavaliers were struggling to generate any kind of offense beyond Steele Stanwick. A pesky Notre Dame squad eventually took the Wahoos out in the NCAA quarterfinals.

"Even though we've always fancied ourselves a team that gets up and down the field, it may have been that we just fell into the convenience of getting the ball to Steele and running a set offense every time. So we wound up fighting teams in the box and playing mostly 6-on-6," Starsia said. "It was never easy for us."

High Point: April 7 against North Carolina. The Cavaliers looked primed to make another deep postseason run after exposing an up-and-coming Tar Heel outfit in a 15-10 blowout. Stanwick sliced-and-diced the Carolina defense from behind the net, scoring seven points.

Low Point: May 20 against Notre Dame. Led by the Fighting Irish's rock solid backline and John Kemp's 14 saves, the Irish ended Virginia's championship hopes in a 12-10 quarterfinal slugfest.

2013 Preview

Best Case: Nick O'Reilly, Mark Cockerton and freshman James Pannell prove to be a potent attack unit. LaPierre, Rob Emery, Ryan Tucker and Co. run roughshod between the 30s. Marino plays like a 2002 Tillman Johnson reincarnate. The 'Hoos run-and-gun their way to the national championship.

Worst Case: Marino and Heller play musical chairs in goal, Parks struggles to win a face-off and the lack of a go-to initiator at the attack dooms the Wahoos, as they lose in the first round of the ACC and NCAA tournaments.

Inside Scoop

Coach Dom Starsia's comments on...

FO Mick Parks (So.)
"He was 24-for-32 against Towson and Princeton in the fall weekend. We were encouraged by that. He's a good face-off guy. Can he handle the load over the course of an entire season? That's to be determined. "

D Scott McWilliams (Jr.)
"He is emerging as a big-time elite guy. He's very athletic and has gotten stronger and much more communicative back there on defense. He's taken much more of a leadership role for us. I expect him to have a good year. He'd be the natural guy to cover most No. 1's."

A/M Matt White (Sr.)
"He is probably going to see as much time at midfield [as attack]. He started out in the fall playing just attack, and then about three weeks in, we started running him through the midfield. We're just better with him doing that. We run him out there with two of the big horses like LaPierre and Tucker, who played together quite a bit in the fall because Emery was out, and we'd bring Matt White out as the third.

"He gets himself open. He's a good finisher and plays off those other guys. You got to decide whether or not you're going to put a short or a long on Matt White while you're helping with those other guys. He creates some issues. He's likely to play in the midfield for us and be that guy that over the years has been like a Matt Poskay or an A.J. Shannon and come out with each of the offensive groups and be a steady hand for us."

Rival Coaches Say

"Loss of Stanwick and Bocklet is big, but still possess tremendous talent... Some very tough losses to graduation, the best players at every position and arguably one of college lacrosse's greatest players ever, but like every year they still have plenty of great lacrosse players, question marks up the middle at the faceoff X and in the goal... They will fly under the radar screen, but they still have most of the best talent. They will be different on offense, and will have to continue to evolve on defense. The new rules may force teams to play at a pace that favors the Cavs... In the midfield Chris LaPierre is a game changer. Can Rob Emery continue to grow as a scoring threat? Who is going to replace Rob Fortunato in goal? Charlie Streep will help on offense... Never count out their athleticism."


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