Certain things are a given in this world. The Bachelor will have (at least) one drunken, awkward meltdown. I will post too many pictures of my dog on Instagram. Virginia Football will throw lots of screen passes. And Virginia Lacrosse will make the postseason.
Well, last year, the Cavaliers broke their eight year streak and missed the NCAA Tournament with a 7-8 record after losing to North Carolina in the ACC Finals.
This season, Virginia is part of the new-look ACC that fields six teams with the addition of Syracuse and Notre Dame, and things will definitely not get any easier for the Wahoos. All six teams in the ACC are not only ranked in the Inside Lacrosse Face Off Yearbook, all six teams are ranked in the top nine. Duke takes the top spot, followed by Syracuse, North Carolina, and Notre Dame to round out the top four (no joke). Maryland sits at six, and Virginia comes in ninth.
Not to channel John Madden here, but Virginia's attack will be crucial for a successful season(duh), but especially so to take pressure off of the goalie situation. For more on the goalies, check out my preview posting on February 5th.
Overall, last season was productive for the attack unit, scoring 11.93 goals per game which was good enough for ninth in the NCAA. Only Duke (14.05) and North Carolina (13.35) scored more goals than the Wahoos in the ACC. The attack unit scored 121 of 179 total goals in 2013, accounting for 67.6% of the team's goal scoring. Of those 121 goals, Virginia returns 68 goals (56.2% of the offensive output, 38% of the overall scoring) for the 2014 season.
Coach Starsia returns Mark Cockerton, who accounted for 49 of UVA's goals last season, but loses point man Nick O'Reilly and clutchman Matt White to graduation. Virginia welcomes three first years to the fold, who could see serious playing time immediately. Here's a breakdown of the attack:
Lukacovic is a 5'10", 170 pound scorer from Syosset, NY and was one of four Cavaliers represented at 2013's Under Armour All-American game, where he had a goal and an assist. A standout at Chaminade High School, Luka brings balance to the attack as both a scorer and a feed guy. He was impressive in fall ball, scoring two goals and adding an assist against Princeton in the San Francisco Fall Classic. He should see significant playing time as a first year.
Check out some highlights of Lukacovic here (he wears #19).
Owen Van Arsdale
Van Arsdale is coming off of a 28 point (11 goals, 17 assists) season in 2013 and could take much of the brunt for the feeding position on attack now that O'Reilly graduated. He is quick and nimble, but had one of the lower shooting percentages for attackmen who saw significant time (25.6%) and coughed up 14 turnovers last season. It will be interesting to see what role pans out for OVA as one of the senior members of the attack.
Michel, one of two third years on the attack (the other being Van Arsdale), only played in four games last season and scored one goal. Most likely Virginia fans will see Taylor in blowout games, but he brings an option to the attack for the second line.
Pannell is poised for a big year. His first year campaign was a little underwhelming for most fans who expected something like big brother Rob, but he did start the season battling a 'lower extremity' injury. James scored only seven goals in 2013, but had a solid fall ball with two goals against Princeton back in October. He isn't afraid to shoot the ball, and he can really sling it. Pannell is great at creating space and Virginia will need him to have a stellar season if they want to be successful.
Check out this slick goal against Maryland at the 1:35 mark (don't watch the rest...it is kind of depressing).
Fish, from Grayslake, Illinois, brings some serious height to the attack at 6'3". He has a solid four inches (at least) over all the other attackmen on the squad, something that will make him a tougher matchup for opposing defenses. Lax guru Quint Kessenich named Fish one of his "10 Who Impressed" for his play at the Champion All-America Showcase, saying, "This freak athlete was the overall MVP of this event. Fish is 6-foot-2 and 185 pounds with vision, body control, and a ceiling that stretches upward to infinity. He was a standout high school quarterback with 17 passing touchdowns and 29 rushing TDs. I can see him challenging for time immediately at UVa as a passing midfielder who can dust shorties."
AJ is officially listed as an attackman (and at 6'3") on the Virginia website, but depending on the needs of the team, could easily see time at midfield. Check out some highlights below.
<iframe width="560" height="315" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/dr_xTEs3u4M" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>
Mark Cockerton is hands down, 100%, the most underrated and under-appreciated player in D1 lacrosse. Cockerton learned his shifty stick skills from box lacrosse in Canada, and I'm sure having the NCAA all time goals-per-game leader as a father didn't hurt either (Stan Cockerton scored 193 goals in 44 games as a member of the NC State lacrosse team back in 1977-1980...that's 4.39 gpg. Unbelievable.).
Cockerton dominated last season with 49 goals, garnering him the fourth spot on Virginia's leaderboard for goals scored in a season behind Doug Knight (twice) and Chris Bocklet. He finished the season in the overall second spot in goals per game with 3.50 goals a contest for the NCAA, a category he led at the end of the regular season. Mark finished the season with five straight hat tricks, boosting his total to nine for the season (out of 14 games played). For his efforts, he earned Third Team All-American and was drafted 56th overall to the Rochester Rattlers in the Major League Lacrosse draft last week.
This Canadian wizard will have a heck of a challenge repeating his stellar junior season, but has some more offensive support around him this year that could take some of the pressure (and double teams) off of him. For a taste of his elusiveness, check out the dodge, duck, dip, dive, and dodge his way to the goal below.
<iframe width="560" height="315" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/42TX49Qlqxg" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>
Last, but not least, is another Canadian. Rated the number one post-graduate attackman in the country by Inside Lacrosse (he spent time at Deerfield after St. Michael's College School), Joe is a versatile righty that could also fight for significant playing time early. French was the youngest attackman on the Canadian U-19 team that finished second (to the US squad) in the 2012 World Lacrosse Championships in Finland.
Also, he appears to have a great sense of humor (and I think he may be on to something):
<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p>Seriously though, Virginia Lacrosse needs our own "Red Lighting" ... Could you imagine how incredible that would be <a href="https://twitter.com/search?q=%23OrangeThunder&src=hash">#OrangeThunder</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/search?q=%23BlueFury&src=hash">#BlueFury</a></p>— Joe French (@_JoeFrench) <a href="https://twitter.com/_JoeFrench/statuses/420439634045571072">January 7, 2014</a></blockquote>
<script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>
Here are some highlights, accompanied by an awesome rap song about Canada:
<iframe width="560" height="315" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/rr-bdMkJJJs" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>
Check back next Wednesday for an in-depth look at Virginia's midfield!