Play for Parkinsons Allows a Fall Ball Preview of Virginia Lacrosse

Brian J. Leung

The Cavaliers had many questions to answer after a run to a repeat national title fell short last spring. With graduation attrition and injuries, were the Hoos able to resolve any of the outstanding issues relating to the goalkeeper or replacing Steele Stanwick and the offensive core of the team?

The Virginia men's lacrosse team took part in the third annual Play for Parkinson's event on Saturday at Episcopal High School in Alexandria, Virginia. Each participating school - Princeton, Georgetown, Towson, Air Force and Virginia - played in two full games. The Cavaliers defeated Towson by an unofficial score of 14-7, while falling to Princeton by an unofficial score of 17-10.

There were many questions looming for the Hoos following the close of the 2012 spring season, but unfortunately, Fall Ball didn't present too many answers for a team battling with multiple injuries at key positions. Among Virginia's injured list are goalie Austin Geisler, midfielder Rob Emery, freshman goalie Dan Marino, fifth year senior Charlie Streep, freshman midfielder Will McNamara and redshirt freshman Greg Coholan, just for starters.

The most obvious question was, who will replace Tewaaraton Trophy winner Steele Stanwick, as well as attackman Chris Bocklet and midfielder Colin Briggs, who were the team's top scorers last season, combining for 160 points?

Quarterbacking Virginia's offense was Matt White, who was predominantly a middie last year, but had switched to attack during the postseason. He had 16 goals and 15 assists for 31 points last year and looked confident at the X. Rotating in and out of that position were also Mark Cockerton, who picked up four (by my count) goals on the day, Nick O'Reilly, who returns after being suspended all of 2012 for a violation of team rules, and Ryan Tucker, a sophomore midfielder with 13 goals last season.

It wasn't exactly clear who was leading this year's offense or who would most likely rise as this year's star. Certainly the familiar names of White, Cockerton and Owen Van Arsdale will play a big role, but no one stood out as the clear leader of the pack. Of course, the injuries and the personnel experimentation were likely to blame for this, but if you were looking for answers on Saturday, they didn't come.

Fans also want to know, who replaces Rob Fortunato in the crease? The presumed answer would be Austin Geisler, who played in four games last season and tallied six saves. But Geisler was not dressed on Saturday due to injury, nor was freshman keeper Dan Marino, who was listed by Inside Lacrosse as the nation's top goalie of that class.

Starting both games was sophomore Rhody Heller, who appeared in three games last year. Heller seemed to have troubles getting into a rhythm in both games, giving up (unofficially) five in the first half to Towson and eight in the first half to Princeton.

Coming in for Heller in the second half and sharing the time were senior Conor McGee, who appeared in two games last year, and junior Matt Robertson, who transferred from Colgate two seasons ago.

If Geisler and Marino are still not healthy come the spring, expect Heller to take over the reins, but my best bet is that it won't come to that.

Will any freshmen see playing time this year? Just about everyone who was semi-healthy saw playing time this Saturday. One standout was 5'10", 175 lbs. attackman James Pannell, brother of Cornell megastar Rob Pannell, who was also on site Saturday. It wouldn't surprise me to see James get the start come this spring, as he put together an offensive clinic for the freshmen.

Face-offs looked like a serious problem in the Princeton matchup, as at one point, Virginia lost at least six straight in the second half, while Princeton flexed some of its offensive muscle over the Hoos. At one point, long-stick midfielder Tanner Ottenbreit was taking face-offs with a longpole, which proved nearly impossible.

One final thought. It's easy to see how Chris LaPierre is the sole captain this year. All-ACC and All-American, "Shocker" was all over the field and brought inspiration to any player near him. Whether on offense or defense, the short-stick defensive midfielder displayed versatility in all aspects of the game.

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