Tonight, the University of Virginia Men's Lacrosse team opens their 2014 campaign at home against Loyola (Md.). Over the past month, we have examined each unit on the field, and it is time for the final segment. In case you missed them, check out the attack, midfield, and defense to get caught up.
Last season, Virginia's biggest struggles without a doubt came in the crease. This season, the goalie piece still remains a mystery as a starter has not yet been named for the opener this evening. With the Hoos losing six games last season by two goals or less, the improved play between the pipes will be necessary to build on 2013's result and make a push into the post season.
While now second year Dan Marino got the nod to open the season last year, he only started the first six games. He played well overall, but after an overtime loss to Syracuse on the road and dropping a one goal game to Ohio State at home, Head Coach Dom Starsia switched to Rhody Heller. This season, it has shaped up in preseason to be a two man race:
Heller, a junior, finished last season with nine starts and an appearance in 11 games overall. He gave up 11.52 goals per game (slightly higher than Marino's 9.09), but made 94 saves. Rhody saved just 48.2% of shots faced, well below the rest of the ACC. For reference Maryland (59.4%), North Carolina (54.5%), Notre Dame (53.9%), and Syracuse (52.6%) all saved over 50 percent of shots they saw. One of two predicted possibilities for starter, Rhody at times last season seemed capable of some unbelievable saves while missing some easy ones.
Matt Barrett started the scrimmage against Navy on Saturday afternoon, and fared very well in cage. He had no goals against in thirty minutes of playing time, and nabbed around five saves. Barrett stands an inch shorter than Heller at 6'0", but he's got thirty pounds extra to put in front of the ball. A tough, athletic kid, Matt could have an immediate impact in goal for the Wahoos if he can adjust to the college game. Barrett played the second half in goal for the 'South' team in last summer's Under Armour All-American Classic where he withstood a barrage of shots and racked up 12 saves in 30 minutes (he gave up 16 goals, but that game was insane...the final was 28-24).
My guess is Barrett gets the start tomorrow.
When it comes to long stick middies (LSM), Virginia has had an illustrious history that includes the like of Trey Whitty, Mike Timms, and Bray Malphrus (before he switched to close defense and led the Hoos to the National Championship victory in 2011). This season, the Cavaliers only have four listed on the roster, but expect to see a couple other guys rotate through.
Some names you should know:
Joe is basically an unknown character on the Virginia roster. A transfer from the DIII Lynchburg College, Lisicky brings experience and athleticism to Virginia's already stacked defensive unit. Lisicky has already racked up a bunch of honors from his undergraduate time at Lynchburg, including a two time stint on the DIII All-American team. Before an injury ended his senior season, Joe had been named the NCAA DIII Pre-season Player of the Year, so there are big expectations for this kid.
Tanner, a third year out of Colorado, saw action in all 15 games last year for the Cavaliers. He finished with just 12 ground balls and seven caused turnovers, but has assumed a bigger role on the defense now that Greg Danseglio has slid down to the starting close defense spot vacated by Harry Prevas. Ottenbreit is also capable of taking faceoffs as a long stick, helping set up the defensive set if need be.
Speaking of face off guys...(see what I did there?)
Parks took the brunt of the faceoffs last season, finishing with a record of 167-310 (53.9%). Mick grabbed 70 ground balls and contributed two goals in 2013, and he will see a lot of time at the X this year for Virginia. Overall, the faceoff guys did a good job as a unit winning 52.7%, but it always seemed as though the ones they lost were the crucial, late-game faceoffs in the close games.
Tyler came in last season to spell Parks as the workload got overwhelming. He did a great job winning 52.8% of his attempts, especially since it was his first time ever taking faceoffs. Based on fall ball and the Navy scrimmage, the Virginia fans will likely see more of German both on faceoffs and on the second or third midfield. He's a smart player and allows Coach Starsia some options in the middle of the field.
Kratky, a first year out of Connecticut, brings new blood to the X this season. Jeff won 65 percent of his faceoffs in high school, and rotated with Parks and German for the Navy scrimmage. He has very quick hands and the vision to look for the quick dump pass to someone like Cockerton or Pannell for the goal. Don't be surprised if Kratky takes a significant number of faceoffs.
This season has a lot of promise, and don't forget to come out to Klockner Field tonight at 7 to cheer for your Wahoos. I will be live-tweeting the game, so if you haven't already, give me a follow on the Twitter (@cwdarney).