The Virginia men’s lacrosse season kicks off this Saturday against Loyola, and it’s time to get into the positional break downs. For each unit — offense, midfield, defense, and specialists — we’re going to highlight some of the players that departed, some that return, and who is new for the Hoos in 2020.
Next up, the midfield. This is a unit that returns some key pieces, but also has some questions to answer. Dox Aitken will anchor the first line, but some promising but newer faces will be expected to contribute a lot.
Ryan Conrad - The 2020 Cavaliers didn’t lose a lot from last year’s team, but one of the pieces they lost is a real doozy. Conrad was described as a Swiss Army Knife, able to do a little bit of everything. He scored the team’s fifth-best 31 goals, added 18 assists, and caused 11 turnovers. His 95 ground balls were best on the team by anyone not named Petey LaSalla. The third place guy? Jared Conners with 57 ground balls.
Conrad blossomed offensively late in the season, scoring 12 of his 31 goals in the post season. His four goals against Maryland helped the Hoos storm back and tie the game late, and he was instrumental in wearing out Duke and Yale. Conrad tore his ACL last season, if it weren’t for a matter of minutes, he’d be back this season with a redshirt.
Dox Aitken - I have no qualms saying that Dox Aitken is the best returning midfielder in the country. As a first year, he set a Virginia program record for goals (29) and points (40) scored by a freshman midfielder, and he needed just eight and nine games to do it, respectively. In his second year, he set the single-season record for points by a midfielder at UVA (51), and last season he beat that record again with 52 points on 44 goals and eight assists.
Aitken is a captain, and is coming off a season where he was a first-team All-American and was named to the All-ACC team, All-ACC tournament team, and All-NCAA tournament team.
Jeff Conner - Conner is a guy that will likely see a lot of run this season. There’s a possibility he runs first line with Aitken and Cormier, and he started 10 of the 20 games he played in last year. Conner scored four goals and dished 10 assists last season.
Milan Murray - Murray is a bit of a question mark as he’s dealt with injuries and did not play last season. He’s a big guy (6’2, 210) and has an absolute bomb of an outside shot.
Regan Quinn - Another player coming off injury, Quinn only played five games last season. He had eight goals and five assists his first year, and is praised for his passing and vision by Coach Tiffany.
Who is New
Payton Cormier - I’m not sure he technically counts as new, but since he didn’t play last season due to injury, let’s just say he’s new. Cormier is from Ontario and still listed as an attack player on the roster, but he will be running midfield as Coach Tiffany wants to keep Matt Moore on attack. He was highly touted as a recruit in the 2019 and was the No. 6 attackmen per Inside Lacrosse.
Michael Bienkowski - One of the new first years, Bienkowski earned high praise from Tiffany for his athleticism and speed. It’s always a good sign when players show up in shape, and that’s the case here (by all indications). Bienkowski hails from Islip, NY, and is the No. 30 midfielder in this first year class, per Inside Lacrosse.