The Virginia Cavaliers are your 2011 NCAA Division One Men’s Lacrosse Champions, and while this team was talked about with very high hopes early on, by midseason, few thought they had the necessary ingredients to be Champs. Starting out it was the Virignia Show featuring the Brattons, at midseason it was Bratton-less UVA, but by the end it was just Virginia. And that was the way it needed to be.
Entering the 2011 season, all of the focus was on the Brattons, how athletic and fast Virginia’s midfield was, and how they were going to score tons of goals and enjoy the benefits of run ‘n’ gun lacrosse. Other than their midfield having a ton of speed and athletic ability, the rest of those “traits” proved false.
Early on, problems emerged for the Wahoos, and to the team leaders, it was evident that everyone was not on the same page. Members of the team were given a couple of chances to change, but if they weren’t willing to get on board, they were going to be left on the dock. And then the Brattons were gone. It was the end of the world for UVA lacrosse.
Or was it? The offense had been stagnant. You KNEW it was going to come back to Shamel and he was going to dodge. Sure, he’s got a great COD and can rip the ball at 100 mph on the run, but it was PREDICTABLE… teams knew exactly what was coming. Virginia would try to “switch it up” by having guys like Briggs, Emery and Haldy dodge, but that was really very similar in that it was all midfield initiation. But once the Brattons were gone, that mentality dissipated a bit and the Wahoos started working the ball through their REAL best player, Steele Stanwick.
Now the offense was controlling the ball, and tempo, and operating from behind. When they did move the ball up top for a feed or dodge off the feed, the middies had more room to operate, step down and get good looks. This is what running your offense through the X will get you.
Defensively, the Cavs changed it up big time. They went from a penalty happy, create transition with checks type of defense with runners and excellent one on one defenders to a modified, aggressive zone, but used the same players. The cover skills were still there, but they were taking their defensive principles to a new level, and that was making the difference. Starsia remarked numerous times at how hard the kids on the UVA team had practiced all year, and for a team to switch up their O AND D midseason, this must be true.
Virginia took their lumps last year when their program was put under a microscope (after Yeardley Love was killed). They took their lumps again this year when numerous players were having conduct issues. In the tourney, they took the best shots of 3 REALLY good teams, and they made it through each time with a W. The fans and media had a lot to say about this team all year, but with the right leadership, and the right character, they were able to circle the wagons, strengthen their resolve and emerge victorious in the end. Every national championship is sweet, but I get the feeling this might be Starsia’s sweetest.