Happy National Signing Day, Virginia fans! Our 2016 Virginia Lacrosse primers continue today with a look at the midfield unit. In case you missed it, we covered the attack earlier this week.
The Hoos lost major contributors Ryan Tucker (25 goals, 11 assists) and Tyler German (20 goals, 7 assists) to graduation, but return some key pieces to go with some fresh faces.
Note: the defensive midfielders (short and long stick) will be covered in the "specialists" preview.
The Big Three
Greg Coholan - Coholan is possibly the most underrated midfielder in the country. He led the Cavaliers last season with 39 goals and 53 points and converted just under 41% of his shots. When James Pannell went out for the season with a lower extremity injury, Coholan moved from midfield to attack, possibly contributing to his being left off the All-ACC team despite impressive numbers and performance. He did earn a spot on the USILA All-American Honorable Mention team for his play over the course of the season.
Coholan has a fantastic outside shot, and the redshirt fifth year had an outstanding fall, scoring several goals in the alumni game. In addition to scoring points, Coholan values the ball, only turning it over six times in 15 games and served no penalty time. Coholan, along with Pannell and defenseman Tanner Scales, is one of Virginia's captains again this season. Captains are voted by the team and Coholan is the first-two time captain since Steele Stanwick in 2011 and 2012.
Here's a good example of the power behind his shot. The alternate angles are impressive.
Zed Williams - There's a lot to be excited about with Zed Williams. Now a third year, Williams has had time to acclimate to life on Grounds. The staff did a phenomenal job his first two years by not putting too much pressure or expectations on the talented midfielder as he adjusted to life in Charlottesville and away from his Seneca tribe and the Cattaraugus Reservation in Buffalo, New York. Williams contributed 20 goals and 17 assists for a fourth-best 37 points last season. He's got tricky moves and is always one of the quickest guys on the field. Coach Starsia expects a lot out of him this year.
Williams is not the best defender among the midfield crew, but he has improved in that aspect over the last two seasons if he gets pulled into a full-field situation. He had the most turnovers on the team, but nabbed 41 groundballs and can be a big asset on the wings for faceoffs.
Ryan Conrad - For the first time in several years, the Cavaliers have pulled in the No.1 recruit. Conrad, from Timonium, Maryland, topped Inside Lacrosse's recruit and midfielder rankings for 2015-2016. Not only did Conrad take the top spot his senior year at Loyola-Blakefield (the same school that UVA superstar Steele Stanwick attended), but he stayed the No.1 recruit throughout his entire time in high school. The talented first year was also and Under Armour All-American, earning the MVP award for his three goal, three assist (which is impressive in an All-Star game), five groundball, and six won faceoff performance. Recently, he was also selected for the 2016 US U-19 30 player training roster.
He's good, and he can contribute immediately due to the gaps left by German and Tucker.
Watch for This Guy:
AJ Fish - Fish could very well become the third starter with Coholan and Williams (and honestly I wouldn't be surprised to see Coach Starsia run a four midfielder look with Coholan playing "attack" and having Williams, Conrad, and Fish in the midfield at some point). At 6-3, 175 pounds, Fish is more the build of former midfielders Tucker, Emery, and Kyle Dixon. He's strong, has a big shot, and impressed Coach Starsia throughout the fall. He played in all 15 games last season, scoring four goals and adding four assists.
There are several excellent options for the Hoos for the second and third midfield lines. First years Ryan Lamb and Phil Poquie had a great fall, and returning players Matt Emery and Zach Wood have experience that could benefit the Cavaliers. Emery (13 games, 2 goals, 1 assist in 2015) is the younger brother of former midfielder Rob Emery. Wood ran on the second midfield last season, seeing action in ten games and scoring one goal. Both Wood and Emery bring size to the midfield at 6 foot 3.
Lamb, a first year from Burke, Virginia, was the No.18 midfielder according to Inside Lacrosse while his classmate Poquie came in at No.12. Both will be fun to see develop as Lamb brings strength and Poquie speed to the midfield.