May 21, 2010

By Chris R. Vaccaro
Special to

STONYBROOK, N.Y.-In some cases an eighth-seed beating the top-seeded team in the country in men's lacrosse would be hard to imagine, but Stony Brook thinks otherwise.

Can you blame them? The Seawolves (13-3) are coming off an America East Conference title, and their first NCAA Tournament victory-a 9-7 decision over Denver last weekend-in just their second tourney appearance.

"It's a group that has a clear idea of who they area," said Virginia coach Dom Starsia.

Virginia (15-1), as prim and proper as it may be on the field, is still riding an emotional roller coaster after lacrosse player George Huguely was charged with murdering Virginia women's player and ex-girlfriend Yeardley Love earlier this month in Charlottesville, Va.

But when the Cavaliers and Seawolves square off in the NCAA Division I Quarterfinal at 2:35 p.m. Sunday at Stony Brook University's Kenneth P. LaValle Stadium-a home game for the Seawolves-it will be back to basics, lacrosse and the pure passion of getting a bid to the NCAA Final Four.

"I have no idea what to expect," said Starsia. "I think there's been a lot of guys leaning on each other as best as we can. Lives have been changed forever here. We're moving forward slowly."

During a conference call on Wednesday, Starsia was not ready to answer questions regarding Huguely, but did break down his team and how it will attempt to leave Long Island on a high note.

It starts with Steele Stanwick in the quarterback role at attack. He and Chris Bocklet have been offensive studs all year.

"We're a more balanced team offensively then I thought we might be," said Starsia, who is making his 15th tournament appearance in 18 years at Virginia.

"They're probably the fastest team in the country," said Stony Brook coach Rick Sowell. "That's always the challenge. It's all about their athleticism. We'll have to continue to play just good solid team defense."

Bocklet's 46 goals tops the Cavaliers, who advanced with an 18-4 win over Mount St. Mary's. That contest saw hat tricks from Bocklet, Shamel Bratton and Brian Carroll, who Starsia said may have the most fundamental scoring strokes of anyone in the game.

Then there is the Stony Brook offense that includes Tewaaraton Trophy finalist Kevin Crowley, who leads the team with 49 goals and 74 points, and Jordan McBride, who is right on his tail with 48 tallies.

Intimidation shouldn't be a factor for either team Sunday, but when Virginia walks into a stadium roaring with 8,000-plus fans wearing red, it'll be a site to see.

"We're going to have to play real well again and we feel like we're capable at that level," Sowell said.

The teams have met eight times before, including a 13-8 Virginia win on Feb. 27 in Charlottesville. The victor faces the winner of Saturday's Duke-North Carolina game in the semifinals at M&T Bank Stadium Sunday, May 29, in Baltimore.

Cornell-Army makes for intriguing battle

When Devin Lynch scored the game-winning goal for Army last weekend in a 9-8 double overtime win against two-time defending champion Syracuse, it became clear who the Tournament's potential Cinderella team could be.

Cornell hopes to end that run, which has included eight consecutive wins and 10 of its last 11 for Army. The Big Red (11-5) is also coming into Sunday's Division I quarterfinal at Stony Brook after an overtime win. Theirs was an 11-10 victory over Loyola thanks to defender Max Feely, who scored his first career goal in the third overtime period.

"We'll need to be as fresh as possible with a full complement of players to the best of our ability," said Cornell coach Jeff Tambroni. "It won't be about so much trying to take away from what Army does."

A helpful hint would be to stop junior attackman Jeremy Boltus, who has scored 33 points in the Black Knights' (11-5) last eight games.

Tambroni knows Army is playing with added confidence compared to when the teams met earlier - a 12-11 Cornell OT win in March.

"They've matured a great deal under their leaders," he said. "They seem to be very vocal and have a large presence at each position."

From brothers Bill and Tim Henderson at the defensive midfield, to Rob McCallion at midfield and Tom Palesky in net, Tambroni was not short on Army names with which to shed light.

As for the Big Red, it's been an interesting journey to this point. After graduating 16 seniors from last year's National Championship runner-up squad, Cornell was tasked with filling gaps all around. What started as upperclassmen playing key roles, quickly changed to a mix of youthful poise on the field.

Sophomore Rob Pannell leads the team in scoring with 74 points, sophomore Roy Lang is fourth in scoring with 21 points and of course Chris Ritchie and Lang are key contributors as veterans. Then there are players like freshman defender Jason Noble, who is third on the team with 47 groundballs. They are seeing production from random spots on the roster.

The winner plays either Maryland or Notre Dame on May 29 at M&T Bank Stadium.