Virginia Lacrosse Team Advances to NCAA Men's Final Four

By Zach Berman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, May 17, 2009

ANNAPOLIS, May 17 -- The seniors who witnessed the most wins in University of Virginia men's lacrosse history graduated Sunday afternoon on the lawn at the Charlottesville campus -- except the 10 who were instead at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium.

They are lacrosse players, and their excuse was the NCAA quarterfinals, where the top-seeded Cavaliers dominated eighth-seeded Johns Hopkins, 19-8, to reach the final four for the fourth time in five seasons. The seniors, who won the national championship as freshmen but lost a semifinal game in two overtimes last season, will receive their diplomas in a ceremony on Monday, then prepare for next Saturday's semifinal against Cornell in Foxborough, Mass.

Missing the commencement address was a sacrifice they were glad to make.

"It is actually kind of nice," said senior captain Danny Glading, a Georgetown Prep product. "We'll have a private ceremony. It will be a lot quicker and efficient."

Quickness and efficiency have become characteristics of the Cavaliers during the past two weeks. They are playing their best lacrosse at the most opportune time, winning their first two postseason games by a combined score of 37-14.

Virginia overwhelmed Villanova in the first round, an unsurprising result made noteworthy only because the Cavs entered the tournament having lost two of their past three games.

But Johns Hopkins, one of college lacrosse's elite programs, carried prestige and a track record of postseason success into the quarterfinals. Virginia proved that the effort against Villanova was merely a precursor for the onslaught against the Blue Jays.

By the end of the first quarter, the Cavaliers led by five goals. At halftime, Virginia held a 12-4 lead. Coach Dom Starsia said he worries about jumping on opponents too early, wary of his team curtailing its aggressiveness. At halftime, the coaching staff emphasized maintaining the pace in the second half, and the Cavaliers scored six of the first seven goals out of the locker room.

"They outplayed us," Johns Hopkins Coach Dave Pietramala said. "There was no easy answer. They played great. They moved the ball. They dodged hard. They played so unselfishly, and every time we did something right, they were still able to make play and it snowballs."

Virginia sophomore Shamel Bratton scored five goals. Senior Garrett Billings and freshman Steele Stanwick each recorded seven points. Even though the Cavaliers lost the faceoff and groundball battles, their offensive firepower was overwhelming.

The Cavaliers will have three days on campus -- including Monday's graduation ceremonies -- before returning to Foxborough on Thursday for the second year in a row.

"I would never have told you we would beat Johns Hopkins by what the score was today," Starsia said. "That was not something that occurred to me. But we probably played our best lacrosse these past two weeks, and we need to keep it going."

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