May 23, 2010

By Chris R. Vaccaro
Special to

STONY BROOK, N.Y. - Dom Starsia might have been skeptical if someone told him his team would be clawing to a one-goal lead in the final minute of an NCAA Division I men's lacrosse playoff game against Stony Brook.

But that was in the past, before the Seawolves were ranked eighth in the country and before they played on their home field while hosting top-seeded Virginia in a Division I quarterfinal.

And while Long Island's new favorite Division I lacrosse power held the Cavaliers (16-1) to its fourth lowest goal tally of the season, it wasn't enough as Virginia won, 10-9, Sunday afternoon at Kenneth P. LaValle Stadium.

Starsia's gang advances to the NCAA Final Four, where they'll play Duke in a national semifinal next weekend at Baltimore's M&T Bank Stadium.

Chris Bocklet had three goals and two assists for Virginia, while Kevin Crowley and Robbie Campbell both led Stony Brook with three points each.

"I feel like we could never get the ball," he said. "It was hard to protect on defense, but we battled the whole time."

Playing before 10,024 fans is nothing new for Virginia, which performs in playoff pressure situations just about every season, but for Stony Brook (13-4), being the new kids on the block was something coach Rick Sowell was concerned about.

His fears became reality when the Seawolves trailed 4-1 after the first quarter, which saw two goals from Bratton and scores from John Haldy and Brian Carroll.

"It was a classic team that hasn't been in this situation before," Sowell said. "There are going to be emotions and anxieties."

That drop in emotional fortitude lasted all but six or seven minutes. Though trailing, Stony Brook strung together a handful of scoring opportunities in the first quarter and began burying shots in the second.

Connor English opened the quarter with a goal to give Virginia a 5-1 lead, but Tim Trenkle and Kyle Belton scored to bring the game to a 5-3 range.

Campbell scored at 13 minutes, 15 seconds of the third quarter to make it 5-4 and Crowley tied the game at 5:30, bringing the crowd to its loudest point of the afternoon.
From there it turned out to be a heart-pumping contest with goals being scored directly after the other team scored.

Virginia took a 10-8 lead with 3:45 to play when Colin Briggs scored the eventual game-winner, and Tom Compitello scored for Stony Brook with 2:11 left.

But the Seawolves were barely done charging with shots, however. In the final minute, Jordan McBride blasted a shot at Virginia goalie Adam Ghitelman, from 15 yards out. It was the best opportunity to score in the final stretch.

"That's a shot I want back," McBride said. "I'm going to think about that until next year."

"You need to be ready to make saves," added Ghitelman. "It came quick and I made it."

Stony Brook ends the most successful season in school history. The Seawolves surpassed Sowell's initial goals for the season of winning a conference title.

"This was one heck of a journey," he said. "We knew we'd have our hands full. There is no team that has better athletes or moves the ball faster than Virginia."

Surprisingly, the score sheet tells a different story. While UVA gets the win, it lost the ground ball game (32-28), shooting game (36-29) and Stony Brook's Adam Rand was spectacular in the face-off circle, capturing 18-of-23 draws.

The win kept the season alive for one of the Wahoos' lacrosse teams, after the women lost to North Carolina this weekend. It offers, the players say, a chance for them to commemorate the life of Yeardley Love, the women's team member whose death rocked the country.

"You really want to win for them," said Ghitelman about the UVA women's lacrosse team that lost to North Carolina in the NCAA tournament this weekend. "It's added emotion. Everything we do now has an edge."

"Playing for the (women's) team and playing for Yeardley has been on our minds," said Virginia defender Ken Clausen. "We're not ready for this to end yet."