CHARLOTTESVILLE — Up and down the Eastern Seaboard, and even in some growing hotbeds near the Mississippi and beyond, this weekend is the beginning of spring, because the college lacrosse season truly gets underway. Most teams ranked in the top 20 of the preseason coaches’ polls, men and women, will have played their season openers by the end of the weekend. The march to the NCAA semifinals and final, the sport’s biggest celebration — a convention and party wrapped into one, held on Memorial Day weekend — has begun.
But here, where the Virginia men’s team is ranked first in the nation and the women are seventh, there is an inescapable backdrop. The trial of George Huguely V — a former Cavaliers lacrosse player accused of murdering a counterpart on the women’s team nearly two years ago — is coming to a conclusion. And fairly or not, because lacrosse has not yet become part of the nation’s mainstream sports discussion, the story of the death of Yeardley Love in May 2010 has become not only about the University of Virginia and its campus culture, about domestic violence and alcohol abuse and a smattering of social issues, but about the sport they both played.