March 4, 2010

By Amy Farnum

When Virginia women's lacrosse player Brittany Kalkstein wants the ball, she usually gets what she wants.

Kalkstein, a senior midfielder for the No. 12 Cavaliers, has been battling for draw controls since her rookie season, developing into one of the nation's best players in the circle. In fact, her career-high nine draw controls in a 14-13 victory over Syracuse on Feb. 27 pushed Kalkstein past the Atlantic Coast Conference all-time mark. She now owns the league record with 214.

"There's a huge competitive side to the draw, and that's my favorite part about it is the competition within it," said Kalkstein. "I think the hardest thing is being able to collect the draw, know where it's going and then get out of the circle when you have all of these players coming at you full force."

Although Kalkstein credits her coaches for having the confidence in her to take the draw during her four years, Virginia head coach Julie Myers says she immediately recognized the youngster's desire to compete for the ball when she first stepped on the practice field.

"She wants that ball and wants to help her team win, and she's willing to do anything within her power to help influence the outcome of the game," said Myers. "When she takes that draw, if she doesn't win it, she makes sure someone else in our circle has a chance to win it. She takes it really seriously and it's something that she thrives on. She loves the pressure of it. She loves that it starts as one-on-one, and it's the chance to get possession for our team."

Myers believes that Kalkstein's success in the circle had a direct effect on the outcome of the Syracuse contest.

"They have a couple of dominant attackers and they typically control the draw control," said Myers. "I thought our team did a nice job of bending even though a lot of shots did go in. Brittany and our team kept winning our next draw back. If Syracuse went down and scored, our team did a great job of getting that next possession. If Britt didn't win nine draws herself, I'm not so sure we'd have beaten Syracuse. That was huge."

Kalkstein leads the nation with 8.0 draw controls per game, but her contributions to the Cavaliers do not end there. She has tallied five goals and four assists in the first three games, including a helper on the game-winning score against the Orange last weekend.

"She also loves to attack," said Myers. "Because she is a midfielder that then gets to go in and play with that ball she's earning possession of, it's icing on the cake for her. She's got terrific hands, so she can find a ball and get her stick under pretty quickly."

As the native of Baltimore, Md., closes out her successful career, Kalkstein is hoping for big things for the Cavaliers. Virginia won the ACC Tournament in Kalkstein's first two seasons, but has not advanced to the NCAA semifinals since 2007 when it eventually fell in the national title game to Northwestern, 15-13.

"I know this is my last year, and I want to go all out and be able to lead my team," said Kalkstein. "We, especially the senior class, have not reached that final goal of the big prize at the end. We're doing everything in our power now to get to that point. It's a different feeling, but it's a good feeling. I'm excited to see what comes of it."

As a part of the journey towards that pot of gold, Virginia must face several strong opponents, starting at No. 2 Maryland on March 5. The Cavaliers will then travel to No. 14 Penn State two days later.

"They (Maryland) are dynamic and athletic, and I've never seen a team pounce on a ball and want a ball more than Maryland whether it's on a draw, or in transition or on ball defense," said Myers. "They are very ball aware and do a great job of using their stick work, speed and their strength in making things go their way. We're going to have our hands full."

While this will be Virginia's first ACC contest of the season, Maryland opened with a resounding 17-4 victory over then-No. 5 Duke last week. The meeting will be the 50th in the series between the two teams. Virginia has won nine of the last 11 contests against the Terrapins.