The Cavaliers, ranked No. 2 in this week's Nike/Inside Lacrosse poll and No. 3 in the USILA preseason coaches poll, open the 2010 campaign Saturday afternoon at Drexel. The game will be played at Vidas Field on the Drexel campus in Philadelphia, Pa. Faceoff is slated for 1 p.m.
This is the ninth year in a row UVa has opened up its season against the Drexel Dragons. The Cavaliers bring an 8-1 all-time series record against the Dragons into Saturday's contest, including a 4-0 mark at Vidas Field.
Virginia's first victory of the 2010 season will be a special one for head coach Dom Starsia. After reaching the 300-win plateau with the Cavaliers' final victory of the 2009 campaign, he is on the brink of another milestone, needing one more victory for 200 career wins at Virginia.
The victory will etch Starsia's name in the history books as the second coach in the history of the sport to win 200-plus games at one school, while also reaching the 100-win plateau at another school. Georgetown's Dave Urick barely accomplished the feat first, as Georgetown's final win of the 2009 season elevated him into the 200/100 club.
Overall, Starsia's 300 career wins puts him in a tie with former Massachusetts head coach Dick Garber for second most all-time by a coach at a Division I school. Urick enters 2010 with 322 career victories, but his first 122 victories came at Hobart College when he led them to 10 NCAA Division III titles.
Standing in the way of the milestone are the Drexel Dragons. After suffering a surprising loss to Drexel three years ago in Charlottesville, the Cavaliers got back on the winning track against the Dragons with an 11-7 win in the season opener two years ago. Making it two straight in the series, Virginia rode five goals from Garrett Billings as the Cavaliers defeated the Dragons in last season's opener, 13-7, inside Klöckner Stadium.
UVa's 20-5 win in 2002 was the first meeting in more than 50 years. The first meeting of the two schools occurred in 1947, Virginia's first season following World War II.
The Cavaliers are 43-32-1 (.572) all-time in season openers, including a mark of 18-16-0 (.529) when opening up the season on the road. Saturday's game will mark the fourth time in the last 10 seasons the Cavaliers have opened on the road, all coming at Drexel. Including the 2004 season when the Dragons and Cavaliers played what was determined a neutral site game at Haverford College, only eight miles from Drexel's campus.
Virginia enters 2010 after finishing with a 15-3 record last year and a No. 5 ranking in the final poll. The season came to an abrupt end with a tough 15-6 loss to Cornell in the national semifinals.
With 27 returning lettermen, including six starters returning, Starsia's squad is viewed as one of the leading candidates to make it to Final Four weekend in Baltimore, Md., vying to play on Memorial Day for the first time since winning it all in 2006. His team is ranked third in both the Face-Off Yearbook preseason poll and USILA coaches poll. With eight NCAA Final Four appearances in the past 11 season, the perspective narrows on what defines Virginia's team success.
"The goal of our program every year is to line up on the first day of fall lacrosse thinking that we have a shot at playing for the championship on the last day," said Starsia.
Leading the way for the Cavaliers will be five preseason All-American's from Face-Off Yearbook, headlined by first-team midfielders Shamel Bratton and Brian Carroll, and defenseman Ken Clausen. Bratton is coming off a first-team All-American season where he tallied 31 goals, ranking No. 4 nationally amongst midfielders marking him on Inside Lacrosse's Player of the Year Watchlist.
Carroll ended the longest game in Division I history with his score in the seventh overtime against Maryland last season on his way to All-ACC and third-team All-American honors after tallying 29 goals and 10 assists. Clausen earned his third All-America accolade in 2009, including two straight first-team nods on defense.
Sophomore Steele Stanwick, the 2009 ACC Rookie of the Year, returns to anchor a young attack after tallying 36 goals a season ago, second on the squad. Steele also assisted 22 scores for 58 points, third on the team and most amongst returners.
UVa will travel to Mount St. Mary's on Tuesday, before hosting its home opener on Feb. 27 against Stony Brook. The UVa home opener will be a double header with the UVa women, who host Syracuse.