Steele Stanwick, Virginia top Denver to advance to NCAA lacrosse championship game


First-team all-American Steele Stanwick unleashes a shot for the first goal of the game against Andrew Lay (9), Jamie Faus and Denver. Stanwick, a junior attackman, finished with three goals and two assists. (Jonathan Newton/THE WASHINGTON POST)
May 28, 2011

Virginia men’s lacrosse junior Steele Stanwickwas the only member of the Division I all-American first team also to be playing in the NCAA semifinals.

And he gave himself and his team one more game after he had three goals and two assists in a 14-8 victory over Denver in an NCAA semifinal at M&T Bank Stadium on Saturday.

Stanwick directed an offense that finished 14-for-32 shooting (43.8 percent).

“They can shoot lights-out,” Denver freshman goalie Jamie Faus said. “They seemed very confident in their ball movement. They knew exactly where they wanted to go and what looks they wanted.”

The championship is Monday at 3:30 p.m., and it will include two ACC teams for the first time since 1986. The Cavaliers (12-5) will face unseeded Maryland, which beat No. 5 Duke in the other semifinal. Maryland won at Virginia, 12-7, in the regular season on April 2.

Denver (15-3) entered as the higher-seeded team — six to the Cavaliers’ seven — and seemingly earned another advantage before the game. Then, Virginia announced that redshirt junior Colin Briggs, a starting midfielder, was not going to play because of what Coach Dom Starsia called “a team matter.”

Without Briggs, sophomore Matt White, a converted attackman, moved into the starting midfield. It gave Virginia a four-attackman look, which wound up working perfectly.

The extra attackman was able to implement the game plan of attacking Denver from behind the goal. Virginia took a 5-2 lead at the end of the first quarter; to that point, White had two assists.

For the game, Virginia attackmen or converted attackmen had 11 goals and six assists.

Starsia said White would not have played as much had Briggs been available. The Cavaliers already are without starting midfielders Shamel and Rhamel Bratton, who are serving suspensions and will not be back.

“We’re sort of running out of midfielders,” Starsia said. “When we made the decision that we had to replace Colin in the lineup, we had to figure out how we were going to do that. . . . We thought we could run Matt out there — if he drew a short — and take the shortstick behind the goal. It worked for us.”

The offense was not the only area in which the Cavaliers dominated. The faceoff unit went 5 for 5 in the second quarter and finished 13 for 24 against Denver sophomore Chase Carraro, one of the nation’s leaders in faceoff win percentage. The faceoffs helped Virginia to a crucial time of possession edge in the middle quarters.

Virginia put the game away with a 4-0 run in the second quarter. In the quarter, it had the ball for 11 minutes 10 seconds to Denver’s 3:50. When the quarter ended, Virginia led 9-2 and Denver Coach Bill Tierney had a long conversation with the referees about a perceived discrepancy in penalty calls.

Yet the third quarter was the same as the second: Virginia had possession 11:07 to Denver’s 3:53. By the end of the quarter, the Cavaliers led, 13-4.

“We possessed the ball, faceoff guys and wings did a great job of getting us the ball,” White said. “And then Steele is such a great leader and quarterback.”

Freshman Mark Cockerton, an attackman who primarily played midfield on Saturday, finished with three goals and an assist and White added a goal and two assists. Freshman Jeremy Noble had three goals for the Pioneers.

The big lead helped Virginia take a patient offensive approach and rest its players with the title game less than 48 hours away. In the second half, the Cavaliers were warned for stalling nine times (one was automatic, inside the final two minutes).

The day started a little out of the ordinary for Virginia. Usually, Starsia asks a senior to address the team for a motivational speech; yet every senior had taken a turn, so Starsia turned to longtime assistant Marc Van Arsdale to give the pregame talk.

“I’m not sure I can really encapsulate the whole thing,” Starsia said. “He talked about what we’ve been through. . . . We’ve all been through a lot this year. There's been plenty to talk about.”

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