In our final unit preview, we are taking a look at the specialist players, including goalies, long stick midfielders (LSMs), short stick defensive midfielders (SSDMs), and face-off-get-off players (FOGOs). It's a lot of acronyms, but I have faith in you.
There are a lot of young, or as Coach Starsia calls them, "new", players in position roles this year, all around the field.
Here are some names to know:
Jeff Kratky and Jason Murphy, FOGO
Last year's FOGO specialist, Mick Parks, is no longer enrolled in the University, leaving the burden of faceoffs to second year Kratky and redshirt freshman Jason Murphy. Kratky went 13-42 (31%) last season from the X, so he's about to see a dramatic increase in his playing time. Wing play will be crucial as Kratky and Murphy adjust and develop their game.
Tanner Ottenbreit, Cooper Fersen, and Michael Howard, LSM
The LSM position could flux as the season begins and Coach Starsia works out who will fill in on close defense for the injured Tanner Scales. Ottenbreit and Howard are listed as LSMs on the official roster, and Cooper Fersen saw a lot of time on the wings in the scrimmage against Navy.
Granted, wing time does infer that Fersen will be used as a LSM (a la Scott McWilliams), but it is possible. As mentioned above, the wing play will be key on faceoffs, and the LSM has to be invested on the defensive end to help mitigate the "newness" of the close defense.
Ottenbreit grabbed 10 ground balls and caused six turnovers last season, seeing action in all 16 games. Howard, a second year, played in just three games, and Fersen is a 6'4", 190lb. player from Vermont ranked 15th in Inside Lacrosse's incoming defensemen.
Carlson Milikin, Will McNamara, and Jack Falk, SSDM
Virginia has always had some of the most solid SSDM's, from JJ Morrissey and Will Barrow to Chris LaPierre and Bobby Hill. This year's options have so much promise, it's hard not to get excited about this group of players. Carlson Milikin battled back from a first year thumb injury, playing in 12 games and amassing seven ground balls and one caused turnover playing behind LaPierre, Hill, and Blake Riley last season. At 6'1", 195lbs., he brings some size to the table, but is quick and has good stick work.
Will McNamara, a second year, has rejoined the team after an absence for personal matters. He entered the program ranked the No.1 midfielder by Inside Lacrosse in 2013 before redshirting for a hip injury, so the ceiling is high for this kid. Both he and Milikin are first time starters, but work well together if the preseason scrimmages were any indication.
Jack Falk, who clearly needs to start a detective agency with Jack Salt, rounds out the group of SSDMs. Falk, a first year from the Landon School in the D.C. area, is the same size as Milikin and was the No.24 midfielder according to Inside Lacrosse. He didn't play much his senior season due to an injury, so he may be lower on the IL rankings than he would have been otherwise.
Matt Barrett, Goalie
Ah, so this is what it feels like to have a set goalkeeper before the season starts. Coach Starsia has battled with assigning a starter for the last few seasons, so it's nice to have a quantifiable entity in cage from the get go. To say Barrett struggled in his first year would be an unfair generalization. He had some days where he seemed unable to locate the outside shot, but the defense didn't do him a lot of favors more times than not, leaving open shots on the doorstep that a combo platter goalie of Rodney Rullman, Tillman Johnson, and Adam Ghitelman would have difficulty saving.
His 149 saves last season put him in second place in the UVa. record books for saves by a first year goalie, and notched a career-high 16 saves twice last season in matchups with Drexel and Johns Hopkins. In the scrimmage against Navy he had about 10 saves (unofficially), and saw the ball well, especially on the long shots. He will have to step up big time in the goal to support his "new" defense, as repeating a 47% save percentage won't cut it against Virginia's brutal schedule. Communication will be key.
Back up options in the cage include Will Railey, Dan Marino, and Rhody Heller.
Check in tomorrow when we chat with Recruiting Rundown's Ty Xanders for a more in-depth look at Virginia's first year players!