“This one is the sweetest.” Coach Dom Starsia’s words were never so true.
It takes a lot to compete in Division I sports. It is even harder to be competitive. Now add the pressure of years and years of distinguished history siting on your back, asking why you haven’t been in the national title game for 5 years with recruiting classes as strong as they have ever been. Succeed. Then be asked to do it when you have to suspend your best players because of rules in place due to the actions of another former player who sits in jail.
Well, he did it. And his team did too.
This was a team that was built around that word: team. It was a sum of its players, not of individual efforts. This mantra was best exhibited today when the two top attackmen on the team Steele Stanwick and Chris Bocklet, were held to 1 point combined, an assist to Matt White in the fourth quarter. Bray Malphrus’ and Steele Stanwick’s comments after the game emphasized this point exactly. While the world saw what four-letter networks and beat writers were proclaiming as a depleted team with little chance of making it out of the first round, was the same team that was winning in Stony Brook and Cornell earlier in the year. The players never lost focus of their goal. Only we did.
Don’t get me wrong, this was not your typical championship team. Teams like 2006, 2003, or 1999, Starsia’s other title years. Those teams were highly offensive, one man attack teams, that played stifling man-to-man defense. That you were allowed to have possession of the ball, let alone shoot, was a privilege. No, this team was out shot every game of the tournament. They rarely won possession of the face off. And they played a zone defense, which Dom is nor accustom to nor happy about. That’s like asking Tony Bennett to run Paul Westhead’s Run and Gun offense. But all of that happened, and Virginia found a way. They evolved.
‘Evolution’ is an interesting word to sum up this championship. It is a change over time in one or more inherited traits. Something goes wrong, you correct it. Someone isn’t living up to a commitment, you dismiss him. Some talents aren’t there, you adjust to compensate for them. The best example of this is when Virginia, not Maryland, slowed the game down and were called with multiple stall warnings. And even when the rain of boos came down from the massively over sized Mayland contingent, those who had never seen the Terrapins play lacrosse, Dom stuck with his gameplan. He knew it would work.
It was a pretty successful Memorial Day weekend for Virginia. A sweep and ACC title in baseball, followed up with the number 1 overall seed in the NCAA tournament. Another Top 5 finish for the Rowing team. And another piece of hardware for the cabinet, one long over due.
“There’s no road map for what we went through,” Dom Starsia said. “You try to do what you think is right…”
Well, you did.