If the Virginia Cavaliers were a car, they’ve been leaking oil for two weeks, there’s a weird noise coming from somewhere or another, the wheels aren’t aligned, and they’re about to break down in a really bad neighborhood.
(Photo Credits: Main photo – Tommy Gilligan, post photos: Craig Chase)
With their loss to Hopkins on Saturday, the 5-4 Cavaliers have lost four of their last five games. Making matters worse, their next three opponents are Maryland, North Carolina, and Duke. After that run of stiff competition they host a very good Bellarmine team on April 20, and then it’s off to Chapel Hill for the ACC tournament, where if they don’t win a game or two, they could easily wind up on the wrong side of .500 when it’s time to hand out NCAA tournament invites.
The Hoos have made the tourney every year since 2004, and there is an incredible amount of tradition at UVA, so it needs to be asked, Cavaliers fans: Is it too early to panic, or should we sound the alarm and start freaking out?
Head coach Dom Starsia is making changes on both ends of the field to get things turned things around before it’s officially too late. While he went with freshman goalie Dan Marino the first seven games of the season, Marino’s 37% save rate against Cornell made way for sophomore Rhody Heller to get the nod for the past two starts. Starsia then changed up his attack line last weekend by starting freshman James Pannell in place of Owen Van Arsdale for the first time, although Pannell ended up dropping back to the midfield later in the first quarter. The point is, UVA is experimenting.
But are changes like the above enough to turn really things around?
It all comes down to how you prefer to look at things. If you’re a glass half-full kind of guy, the lost to Cornell & Ohio State by only one goal each. A different bounce here or there and you could be looking at a 7-2 team with two top ten wins. Glass half-empty? They’re 2-3 in games decided by two points or fewer this season; and great teams find ways to win the close ones. Half-full? Their offense is averaging 12.3 goals per game, eighth place in NCAA division one. Half-empty? They haven’t scored more than 12 goals since their fourth game of the season, and their production has decreased in each of their last four games.
Strong arguments can be made on either side.
Now, if it turns out that this just isn’t their year, the future looks plenty bright for UVA lacrosse. The Cavaliers should return nine starters in 2014, underclassmen currently account for 83% of their offensive production, and Chris Lapierre is expected to apply for a medical hardship waiver that grants him an additional year of eligibility. An extra year of experience, coupled with the return of their sole captain, could be just what this team needs to return to form.
But to be honest, maybe we’re getting ahead of ourselves and this concern is all for naught. They could win, say, two of their next three games and make this all a non-issue. If that’s the case, however, they need to start winning again, preferably this weekend, when they take on #2-ranked Maryland.
The Terps finally lost a game last weekend (half-full, woo-hoo!), but North Carolina, Virginia’s opponent in two weeks, is the team that beat them (half-empty, d’oh!). Will the Cavaliers come through in the clutch, or be forced to wait until next year? Come Saturday afternoon, we actually may get our answer.