Saturday, the No. 15 Men’s Lacrosse team kicks off the 2018 season as No. 10 Loyola (MD) comes to town. We’ve already looked at the attack and midfield, so it’s time to dive into the defense.
The Wahoos gave up over 13 goals per game last season, and graduated one of the best defenders in the conference in Tanner Scales. Coach Tiffany likes to extend the defense and play more aggressively on the perimeters, but the team struggled at times and put their goalies in difficult save situations after bad slides and miscommunication.
How will Virginia’s defense look this year?
The Big Three
Scott Hooper, Sr. - Hooper, one of Virginia’s team captains alongside midfielder Ryan Conrad, has been a huge piece for the Hoos over the last couple seasons. He started in 14 of the 15 games last season and amassed 35 caused turnovers without being called for a single penalty (which is nearly impossible). His 2.33 caused turnovers per game were good for first in the ACC and fifth in the NCAA. He’s a smart defender and has outstanding stick control.
Kyle Kology, Fr. - If you don’t recognize that name, don’t feel bad. He’s a walk-on from Chatham, NJ, and has been a complete surprise to the staff. At 6’4, 210, he’s a big defender and although Coach Tiffany says he hasn’t wowwed with bench press or fitness numbers, he “has a nose for the ball”.
“There’s a...first year that nobody gets credit for but himself,” Tiffany said, speaking of Kology. “He’s the walk-on...that nobody at Virginia recruited. He’s always in the right place, he’s sliding, he’s backing up shots, he just gets it. His lacrosse IQ is triple some of our men.”
Zach Ambrosino, Jr. - Ambrosino is the muscle of the defense, even though he’s just 6’0, 200. He started 14 of 15 contests and just outmuscles opponents. He finished last season with 23 ground balls and 10 caused turnovers, but a team-high 5.5 minutes of penalties.
“Pound for pound, Zach is arguably the strongest of men in our program. Combining this power with his feverish awareness on the field makes for an alert, energetic physical defenseman who seeks out the body contact. Zach can be an intimidating matchup as he is unapologetic for his furious play.”
Names to Watch
Cooper Fersen, Sr. - Fersen is 6’5, 220 and had nine ground balls and 11 caused turnovers last season. He was used in a lot of man down situations, but he’s a smart player with adept stick skills.
Jared Conners, So. - Conners had a solid first year, playing in all 15 games for Coach Tiffany. He scored the game winning goal on the road at Richmond, one of two goals he had on the season. Check out at the 3:15 mark for the face-off and goal:
Tiffany is excited about Conners this season:
“He is becoming one of the program’s best cover defensemen, utilizing his disruptive approaches, long reach and unforeseen strength. For these reasons, Jared may be employed down low on close defense at times. But he is a natural in the middle of the field, creating pressure on both ball carriers and the opposing goal as he sparks our offensive transition.”
Logan Greco, Jr. - Greco redshirted last season, so we haven’t seen him in the Tiffany defensive schemes yet, but Coach has called him a “cerebral” defender with a player-coach type mentality. He’s 6’0 and 210 pounds, so he can hold his ground.
Overall, they still don’t have the pieces to push out as aggressively as seen with previous Tiffany defenses at Brown. “We’re still working towards that,” Tiffany said of the extended defense. “We’re still not there yet in terms of being that team that meets you as you cross the mid-line and harass you. So that’s the downside. The plus side is we have become more of a six v. six defense that is working as a unit, that is making slides and trusting each other to support one another.”
Although they’re still not where he wants them to be with his defense yet, he’s confident that they’ve improved since 2017.
“If you watch the Virginia defense here in February, I hope people are saying, ‘wow I don’t recognize this defense, this doesn’t look like they did last year’.”
Virginia and Loyola faces off at 1pm at Klockner Stadium. Tickets are free for anyone who attends College GameDay at 11am.