The top-ranked Virginia Cavaliers will face their first big test as they travel to Long Island to face No. 5 Stony Brook in the Seawolves' season opener. While the Hoos have never lost to Stony Brook in eight games, this year's Seawolves will prove to be one of the toughest they've faced.
The Cavaliers played season-killer last year, defeating Stony Brook 10-9 in the quarterfinals of the NCAA Championships, the closest game ever recorded between the two teams.
"The way the season ended and then to have them in the first game, I guess you couldn't make this up," Stony Brook head coach Rick Sowell said. "Certainly, there's a storyline there, and it's exciting from that perspective."
Virginia head coach Dom Starsia is not as amused.
"The thought of going back to Stony Brook is going to produce some sleepless nights," Starsia said. "That was a wild game last year in an unbelievable atmosphere."
Saturday's matchup presents a clash of two of the top midfields in the country. Virginia is led by two-time All-American Shamel Bratton and his All-American brother Rhamel, who combined for four points in Tuesday night's 22-6 beat down of Mount St. Mary's. On the other side, Stony Brook's Kevin Crowley was the nation's top point-producing midfielder in 2010, with 51 goals and 26 assists for 77 points.
The Seawolves return 94% of their goal scorers, from a team that was ranked fourth in the nation with over 13 goals per game in 2010. Stony Brook has four preseason All-Americans, including Crowley, face-off specialist Adam Rand, Tom Compitello and Jordan McBride.
This should be a high-scoring game by two experienced and very prolific offenses, and will serve as a big test for both teams' young and untested defenses. The difference this game will likely be the experience of Virginia keeper Adam Ghitelman, who is one win away from tying the Virginia all-time wins list, currently held by Kip Turner ('07), who had a record of 40-8. Ghitelman, 39-6, finished last season ranked 7th in the country in goals-against average, at 8.25. Stony Brook lost their starting keeper Charlie Paar, and will have a new face between the pipes.
I really can't emphasize how good this Stony Brook offense can be, quite possibly one of the best in the country. This is the perfect game for both teams early in the season to grow their respective defenses.
"I was saying to the Stony Brook coach just this morning, actually, that if this rivalry continues the way it's going right now, TV may be clamoring for this sooner rather than later," Starsia said Thursday.