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THE BIG PREVIEW: No. 11 Virginia takes on Drexel in first road test

Hoos take their 1-0 record to Philadelphia for their first road tilt of 2018.

2011 NCAA Division I Men's Lacrosse Championship - Championship Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

The Virginia Cavaliers got the 2018 season off to a dramatic and exciting start, taking down then No. 10 Loyola in overtime, 13-12, thanks to a game-winning goal from second year Dox Aitken. In case you missed it, check out the highlights:

This week, the Hoos look to start the season 2-0 as they face their first road game at Drexel. The Dragons have yet to play a game this season, but Virginia topped Drexel last season in Charlottesville 18-14 behind seven goals from Mike D’Amario.

The game starts at 1pm, and will be live streamed by Drexel.

Drexel on Offense

Last season, Drexel averaged just under 10 goals per game and finished 2017 with an overall 6-8 record. The Dragons graduated their leading scorer, Cole Shafer, who accounted for three of Drexel’s goals against the Hoos last season. Sophomore Reid Bowering (24 goals, 15 assists in 2017) returns, as does senior Robert Frazee (23 goals, seven assists). The third attack spot goes to Matthew Varian, who is returning after a year out due to injury.

In the midfield, the Dragons will start Marshal King, Will Manganiello, and Jake O’Donnell. All three are returning players for Drexel, led by King who had 12 goals last season. Both Manganiello and O’Donnell had nine goals apiece in 2017.

Virginia’s Scott Hooper was phenomenal last week against Loyola’s Pat Spencer (two goals, three assists, only one assist after the first quarter). Expect to see him on Bowering, but the specific matchups won’t be as important in this one as no one player is as explosive as Spencer. First year Kyle Kology handled himself well in his college debut, and the unit of Hooper, Greco, and Ambrosino performed well, especially as the game went on.

Midfielders Dox Aitken and Ryan Conrad will see a lot of burn defensively, and first year John Fox performed well in his debut last weekend.

Drexel on Defense

Another player returning from injury for the Dragons as senior defender Jake Kiernan comes back into the lineup to play alongside Michael Meurer and Will Stabbert. Meurer has the stick control to cause turnovers (19 last season), and Stabbert came up with 25 ground balls in 2017. The Dragons will have their hands full with the Cavaliers as Michael Kraus, Mike D’Amario are known entities that can score, and first year Ian Laviano (reigning ACC Offensive Player of the Week) kicked off his college career with five goals against Loyola.

The Virginia midfield will continue to be a matchup problem for opponents as they trot out Aitken, Conrad, and first year Matt Moore (two goals). Coach Tiffany also utilized Mikey Herring (normally an attackman) in the midfield, and although Matt Emery struggled at times last week, he’s known to have a big outside shot. Ryan Lamb, who Tiffany spoke highly of before the season, was quiet in the opener but has the potential to put up goals this season.

Specialists

The Dragons return last year’s main faceoff specialist, Jimmeh Koita, who won just 38.8% (100-for-258) in 2017. Virginia should have the advantage here with Monmouth transfer Justin Schwenk taking the X for the Hoos. Schwenk was outstanding last week against Loyola, going 16-for-26 (61.5%).

In the cage, the Dragons graduated Jimmy Joe Granito (best name ever) who had a 54% save percentage and gave up just under 11 goals per game. The Drexel roster carries five goalies, with only one - John Roulston - seeing time last season. For the Hoos, Griffin Thompson was tremendous in the opener with 15 saves and a 56% save percentage. There is a good possibility that Coach Tiffany goes with first year phenom Alex Rode in cage as Rode did not play in the opener due to a ‘coaches decision’.