Virginia men's lacrosse head coach Dom Starsia doesn't really believe in "big games," but he does believe that this Saturday will be an "important moment," as the No. 11 Cavaliers host No. 13 Penn on Senior Day for the men's lacrosse team.
This will be one of the most interesting games of the season for Hoos fans, for a number of reasons.
First, the Cavaliers have lost four of the past five matchups, and it took an overtime effort to get the lone win during that stretch, against then-No. 5 North Carolina. Now, the team who was originally the favorite to win the 2011 NCAA Championship is sitting at 8-5 on the season, with an "important moment" coming up on Saturday. "Win and they're in" is the mentality. Lose, and it's a little more uncertain.
"We have that little common thread of ours about, ‘No big games,'" Starsia said to media Thursday afternoon. "But I did talk to the players on Monday about there being important moments in a season, in a year, in a career."
"We want to be playing well just for it's own sake, but it also has implications as we think about post-season play. I just think that if we are able to get this game, it's maybe likely that we may host a play-off game here in Charlottesville. If that's not the case, then we're subject to the bracketology gods after that, but we prefer to keep that in our own hands if at all possible.
The second reason this will be an interesting game is that ACC Player of the Year Steele Stanwick, who has been battling with an injury, is looking better than he has in the past couple weeks. According to Starsia, he has done more in practice this week than he has in any of the past couple weeks.
"I'll take him in any capacity," Starsia said. "If for no other reason, he's just such a pleasure to be around. I think he does just lift practice a little bit just with his presence. At the same time, we'll probably never going to be able to give [him] quite as much time as he's going to need to be as healthy as he could be."
Starsia commented that Stanwick probably feels like he needs to contribute more, and that he feels hasn't been as sharp as he usually is, given some lackluster results.
Finally, rumors have been spreading that at least one player has been either dismissed for disciplinary reasons or voted off the team.
"I would just tell you that we're not prepared to comment on that," Starsia said. "If you want to stay in touch with me over the next day or two...it's just not something that we're prepared to comment on at this time."
So the good news is that Steele should be in better shape on Saturday to face an 8-4 Penn squad. The bad news is that there may be a little team disruption, depending on whether there's any truth to the rumors. Starsia certainly made no effort to deny the rumors, and I suspect an official release should be coming pretty soon.
Either way, it's going to be a very "important moment" for the Cavaliers, who are finishing the season with a game with serious NCAA implications for the first time in recent memory.