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Virginia Men's Lacrosse Faces Drexel in Season Opener

Rhamel Bratton has had an entire off-season to think about the one thing his career at Virginia is missing: a national championship.
Rhamel Bratton has had an entire off-season to think about the one thing his career at Virginia is missing: a national championship.

For the tenth straight year, the Virginia Cavaliers men's lacrosse team will open their season against the Drexel Dragons on Saturday at Klockner Stadium. The Cavaliers, ranked No. 1 in the country in the preseason USILA coaches poll and No. 2 in the Nike/Inside Lacrosse media poll, are 9-1 in the past ten games against No. 16 (media) / No. 18 (coaches) Drexel, with the lone loss coming in 2007.

The Cavaliers are coming off a 16-2 season, with both losses coming to eventual national champions Duke. The Cavaliers, who have made it to the Final Four on Memorial Day weekend the past three years, finished the polls ranked second in the country.

Virginia returns 28 lettermen, including seven returning starters and nine of its top 10 scorers in 2010, and is a consensus favorite to reach Baltimore this Memorial Day weekend. Here's a look at the probable starters for Virginia on Saturday.

Attack Yr. G-A-P Other Notes
Steele Stanwick Jr. 29-32-61 38% shooter Face-Off Yearbook Preseason first-team All-American
Chris Bocklet Jr. 53-14-67 43% shooter Face-Off Yearbook Preseason third-team All-American
Connor English So. 10-1-11 28% shooter Started five games as a freshman
First Midfield Yr. G-A-P Other Notes
Shamel Bratton Sr. 24-17-41 16 GB On Inside Lacrosse's Player of the Year Watch List
Rhamel Bratton Sr. 23-8-31 20 GB Face-Off Yearbook Preseason third-team All-American
John Haldy Sr. 11-5-16 10 GB Started first two games of 2010
Second Midfield Yr. G-A-P Other Notes
Chris LaPierre So. 10-9-19 51 GB Third on the team in 2010 with 51 ground balls
Colin Briggs RJr. 10-2-12 25 GB Had two multi-goal games in 2010
Rob Emery Fr. [High School] Inside Lacrosse's No. 9 overall recruit
Face-Off Midfield Yr. G-A-P Other Notes
Brian McDermott Sr. 1-0-1 101-168 FO 95-of-159 on FO in last 11 games of 2010
Chris Clements RJr. [Injured] Appeared in 30 career games entering 2011
Bray Malphrus Jr. 0-0-0 50 GB Second on team in 2010 with 24 caused T/O
Close Defense Yr. G-A-P Other Notes
Harry Prevas So. 0-1-1 9 GB Started three games as a freshman
Scott McWilliams Fr. [High School] Inside Lacrosse's No. 6 overall recruit
Matt Lovejoy RJr. 0-0-0 21 GB Quietly shut down some of nation's top attackmen
Goalie Yr. GAA/Sv%   Notes
Adam Ghitelman Sr. 8.24/.548 38-6 all-time record at UVa

Drexel is not exactly a "gimme" team, despite what the past ten years would suggest. The Dragons took out four top-ten teams last season, and lost by just 11-8 to the Cavaliers. Their offense took a big hit this past fall when All-American candidate Kevin Stockel went down with a knee injury, causing him to miss this entire season with a redshirt.

In 2010, the Drexel defense was ranked seventh in the country, allowing an average of 8.33 goals per game. They have been ranked in the top ten in three of the past four seasons.  Virginia should be dominant at face-offs, as the Dragons lost their starting face-off specialist Zak Fisher as well as a couple other experienced guys, leaving a couple redshirt freshmen to handle senior Brian McDermott.

For Virginia, a number of players being the 2011 campaign not only with an eye towards Memorial Day, but also looking at signing their name to UVa's record books.

Senior goalie Adam Ghitelman, with a 38-6 record at Virginia, is just two wins shy of tying Virginia's all time winningest keeper. That honor is currently held by his predecessor Kip Turner, who had a 40-8 record. With 408 saves, Ghitelman is 11th on Virginia's career saves list, behind Turner's 412.

Two-time All American Shamel Bratton is also rising up the charts. Ranked No. 8 at UVa with 101 points, Bratton is on his way becoming the Virginia all-time midfielder points leader, a distinction currently held by Brian Carroll (2007-2010) with 128 points. Last season, Bratton had 24 goals and 17 assists for 41 points.

Face-off is scheduled for 5:00 p.m. at Klockner Stadium.