Virginia's men's lacrosse team takes No. 1 seed in NCAA tournament; women are seeded sixth

Virginia's players honor deceased teammate Yeardley Love in their 14-12 victory over Towson in the NCAA tournament.
By Zach Berman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, May 10, 2010

CHARLOTTESVILLE -- The Virginia men's and women's lacrosse teams begin the postseason here this weekend, each missing a player that has thrust both teams into the national spotlight. The top-seeded men play Saturday against Mount St. Mary's without George Huguely, who will sit in a regional jail four miles away while he faces charges of first-degree murder in the death of women's lacrosse player Yeardley Love.

The sixth-seeded women's team plays its first game without Love against Towson on Sunday.

During a Sunday night teleconference, men's Coach Dom Starsia did not answer questions about whether he was aware of violence in Huguely's past or whether he had knowledge of Huguely's arrest in 2008 in Lexington, Va. School administrators said Wednesday they were unaware of the arrest.

More reports of violent behavior have surfaced, including a 2009 incident in which Huguely attacked a sleeping teammate last year, according to three former Virginia lacrosse players with knowledge of the incident.

"This is such a complicated, ongoing investigation," Starsia said, "it's just something I simply cannot talk about."

But he did recognize that lacrosse was secondary throughout much of the week for both his team and himself. In addition to Love's death and revelations about Huguely's past, Starsia's father died Friday.

"Hard to put it into words exactly," said Starsia, whose father had lived at his home since February. "So much of what I do is connected to the lacrosse piece of my life. These players are almost like family, and so it was a big hole there that needed to be filled. I can tell you the players were looking forward to getting on the field, and I was greatly looking forward to seeing them and getting out there myself."

He called the week "tragic on so many different levels" and said the players are trying "to take it in small pieces" as they try to move forward. That will be difficult to do, though, with questions that remain unanswered looming over the team as the investigation continues. Huguely is due in court on June 10 to have a preliminary hearing date set.

By that point, the NCAA tournament will have concluded. The men's tournament also includes third-seeded Maryland, which will face Hofstra on Saturday in College Park. The Terrapins finished 11-3 this season.

"We feel like we've had a pretty good regular season and we were rewarded with a three seed, so that's a positive," Maryland Coach Dave Cottle said. "But now we're moving up, we're climbing the mountain a little bit and now if you fall down this mountain it's fatal, so we understand that you have to be able to play possession lacrosse in order to be successful."

The Terrapins' women's team received the No. 1 seed and will play Marist on Saturday in the first round.

Georgetown's men's team missed the NCAA tournament for the third consecutive season. The Hoyas finished 9-5.

"Georgetown had a good year," said Tim Pavlechko, chairman of the NCAA tournament selection committee and assistant athletic director at Bucknell. "There were a bunch of schools grouped together among the at-large teams, and we had to use all of our selection criteria to determine the teams that got in. Georgetown's results against the RPI [top 15] compared to some other institutions, other schools had wins that Georgetown didn't."

But the national spotlight will remain on both of Virginia's teams. They enter the postseason with lacrosse as a diversion from the issues that gripped the campus throughout the week -- and a story that will not go away despite the team's return to the field.

Starsia said he and women's Coach Julie Myers have talked and "tried to sort through these issues as best we could." He said the teams are supportive of each other, and Myers advocated that the men's team continue its season. Starsia pointed to Love's funeral on Saturday, when players from the men's team served as pall bearers.

"I think both teams are in a great deal of pain," Starsia said, "and both teams are trying to sort this out as best they can."

Staff writer Steve Yanda and special correspondent Christian Swezey contributed to this report.

© 2010 The Washington Post Company