The Washington Times - May 7, 2012, 02:33PM

Virginia opens the NCAA tournament Sunday at home against Princeton.

Unlike their regular-season finale, the fifth-seeded Cavaliers won’t have to play without midfielder Chris LaPierre.

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Coach Dom Starsia said LaPierre returned to practice Sunday for the first time since he suffered a shoulder injury in an April 20 loss to North Carolina. And while LaPierre is “a little bit limited,” Starsia said the valuable junior will play “in some capacity” in Virginia’s NCAA postseason opener.

“If you’re familiar with his shoulder injury, he’s not going to feel right until the middle of the summer,” Starsia said. “He’s going to have to learn to play with some with some discomfort until he gets a chance to stop for a month or six weeks.”

Getting LaPierre back would reverberate for the Cavaliers (11-3) in several areas. He is Virginia’s best short stick defensive midfielder, and leads the Cavaliers in groundballs with 55 thanks to his work on faceoffs.

While his scoring total is modest (four goals), the 6-foot-2, 220-pound LaPierre is always a threat to start a transition break if he collects a loose ball either on defense or in the midfield.

Needless to say, the return of the two-time all-ACC pick is invaluable for Virginia’s postseason hopes. It also figures to provide a better show Sunday at Klockner Stadium as the Cavaliers attempt to beat Princeton (11-4) in the NCAA tournament for the first time.

“I think the educated lacrosse fan appreciates Shocker,” Starsia said. “It was a pleasant surprise that he makes all-conference last year and makes third-team All-America last year. I’ve had people tell me ‘Geez, he’s my favorite guy to watch on your team.’”

Patrick Stevens