The tournament-favorite Virginia men’s lacrosse team earned the top seed nod in the upcoming NCAA tournament. The Cavaliers (14-1) will play host to Mount St. Mary’s (12-4) this Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and will be televised on ESPNU. Virginia has consistently been ranked No. 1 in polls all season, is the ACC Champions (a conference with all four teams in the top 5 of the country), and is at the top of both RPI and Strength of Schedule metrics. Virginia is 7-0 all time against Mount St. Mary’s.
Of course, the lingering question for Virginia and lacrosse fans alike is how this team will perform given the incredible gravity of the events that have unfolded this past week. In addition to the first degree murder charge upon one of their former teammates, the team has suffered the loss of head coach Dom Starsia’s father, who lived with Coach Starsia and who passed last week after a long battle with various forms of cancer.
According to Inside Lacrosse, "It's hard to put into words exactly," Starsia said of "Big Dom"'s passing. "I knew it was going to happen and I thought I was prepared for it, but I simply found out that I was not. I've been fortunate to have family close by, so we've leaned on each other."
Starsia also said, earlier on ESPNU, "I find myself…with a lingering sense of disbelief for all that has gone on. I’m just trying to help my family get along here and help my team recover and begin to be able to move forward. There are so many things that need to happen here on a personal level. Lacrosse season has been a little secondary."
Inside Lacrosse reports that Starsia will be staying with his sister in Philadelphia on Monday, heading to Long Island for his father’s viewing on Tuesday, and attending the funeral on Wednesday. He is scheduled to return to practice on Thursday.
The team chose to play out their postseason after women’s lacrosse head coach Julie Myers told him that the women’s team would be playing, and that they wanted the men’s team to do the same. Coach Starsia found out through the University that the Love family supported both teams’ postseason aspirations.
This is the second straight season Virginia’s been the top seed, the fourth overall time in program history. Assuming UVa takes care of business as expected (the Cavaliers beat the Mount 15-7 earlier this season), they will play the winner of Denver and No. 8 Stony Brook. Earlier this season, Virginia beat Stony Brook 13-8 in Charlottesville. Of the fifteen other teams in the tournament, Virginia has played – and beaten –eight of them this season (No. 2 Syracuse, No. 3 Maryland (twice), No. 4 North Carolina, No. 5 Duke, No. 7 Cornell, No. 8 Stony Brook, Johns Hopkins and Mount St. Mary’s).
"I'm proud of what we've been able to accomplish on the field this spring," Starsia said. "We played all the top teams and played well throughout the season. I just felt like at times the past few days that we'd never get back to thinking about lacrosse again. There are times it's not really that important to be honest, but we're glad to get back out there and start to begin moving forward."
The entire tournament will be broadcast on ESPN, ESPN2, and ESPNU, with the semifinals and finals also being broadcast on ESPN3.com.