Emotion Can Take You A Long Way, Part 2
Emotion Can Take You A Long Way, Part 2
In my previous post I pointed out that I live in the Charlottesville, Virginia area, home of the University of Virginia. I’d like to recount the Men’s Lacrosse season for you so that you can understand all of the emotions that these young men experienced over the last year.
On May 3, 2010 Women’s Lacrosse player Yeardley Love was found in her apartment unconscious. She was pronounced dead at the University of Virginia Medical center. It appeared that she had been brutally beaten. Within hours her former boyfriend, George Hugeley, a men’s lacrosse player was arrested for her death. Love, a fourth year student, was a very popular player and student. The entire university mourned her death. Players from the men’s team served as her pallbearers. The men’s team made the final four but ran out of gas in the semi-final game against their arch-rival Duke University.
Fast forward to the 2011 season. The fourth-year players felt that the team needed a stricter code of player conduct. As one captain said that it would be an insult to the Love family if they didn’t. Head-coach Dom Starsia is a big believer that he turns out men, not just players. Even though there is a professional league most players move on to other pursuits after their college playing days. Apparently, there was a lot of tension during the season. Some players didn’t want to change. The Bratton twins who are two of the best players in the country resisted any changes. Shamel Bratton was suspended for the Stony Brook game for breaking unspecified “team rules”. Virginia won eight of their first ten games losing only to Syracuse and Johns Hopkins in very close games. Then came the Maryland game in Charlottesville. Virginia was crushed by one of their oldest arch-rivals 12 to 7, a game in which Shamel Bratton was suspended for a second time. In the following two weeks they lost to ACC rivals North Carolina in overtime and to Duke by two goals. After the North Carolina loss it was reported that Matt Lovejoy, their best defender was out indefinitely and would have shoulder surgery. Virginia found itself at 8-4 and 0-3 in the ACC. At the ACC championships they were crushed by Duke 19-10, a real embarrassment. At this point Shamel Bratton was dismissed from the team for a third violation of team rules and his brother Rhamel Bratton was suspended indefinitely. The team came back with an 11-2 victory in their final game against Penn.
After the loss of Lovejoy Coach Starsia reconfigured his defense from man-to-man to zone. He would later say that he wanted his superb fourth-year goalie, Adam Ghitelman, to get better looks at the opposing shooters. However, the player who would lead his team to the supreme moment, Steele Stanwick, had been hurt for most of the second half of the season with various ailments. Virginia was seeded #7 in the NCAA championships. Starsia, an offensive-minded coach, had his offense flow through Stanwick, his best player. They beat Bucknell in overtime, coming back from a four goal deficit. Stanwick had three goals and five assists. Next up was a long-time rival Cornell. UVa won by four goals with Stanwick getting three goals and four assists. Final four weekend with UVa against Denver, Duke against Maryland in the ground zero of Lacrosse in America, Baltimore. In the previous four years UVa had lost in the semis. Would history repeat itself? They won going away by 6 goals, 14-8. Stanwick scored another three goals and dished out two assists. In three games Stanwick had an incredible 20 points with 9 goals and 11 assists. The final game was against the very team that almost cost Virginia the season, Maryland. They had a score to settle with the Terps. Maryland’s game plan was to blanket Stanwick and starve the UVa offense. The game was a tight defensive contest until the fourth quarter. Virginia’s defense was superb, their offense opportunistic. With a 9-7 victory they won the National Championship and proved their doubters wrong. According to their coaches this team wouldn’t quit and persevered until they won it all.
Oh, by the way Steele Stanwick won the highest individual award in College Lacrosse, the Tewaaraton Trophy. He follows in the footsteps of Chris Rotelli (203) and Matt Ward (2006). Interestingly enough, each player won the award in a year that Virginia won the national title. That says something about team play.
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