- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Matt Poskay spends much of his week standing on the sideline with a pulled left hamstring, helping Virginia’s lacrosse coaches as his teammates work through drills. It’s an existence that can frustrate the junior midfielder, even as his teammates find a bit of humor in his predicament.

“They actually started calling him Radio after the guy in the movie because all he does is go around and pick up balls all day long in practice,” Virginia coach Dom Starsia said.

Yet on game day, Poskay is simply dialed in. The junior has scored 28 goals this season, including four in Saturday’s NCAA tournament quarterfinal victory over Navy, for the fourth-seeded Cavaliers (11-3). Virginia meets top-seeded Johns Hopkins (14-0) in the semifinals at Philadelphia’s Lincoln Financial Field on Saturday.

“Throughout the whole year I’ve barely gotten out there,” Poskay said. “If you’re playing through pain, at game time you don’t feel the pain. When the whistle blows, you have to be ready to go.”

He has been this season, producing eight multigoal games and 10 goals in his last four outings. That has helped fulfill the expectations created by a stellar prep career at A.L. Johnson High in Clark, N.J. The state hardly is a recruiting battleground like Long Island, Baltimore and upstate New York, but he scored 362 goals — a national high school record — to get Virginia’s attention.

Poskay finished his freshman season on Virginia’s second midfield unit, scoring seven goals as the Cavaliers won the 2003 national title. Poskay scored five times in the NCAA tournament, an encouraging sign for a team that was losing star midfielders Billy Glading, Chris Rotelli and A.J. Shannon to graduation.

But instead of blossoming, Poskay was caught up in a team-wide malaise in 2004. He scored just 11 goals as the Cavaliers went 5-8 and became the first defending champion to miss the tournament.

The struggles appear to be connected more to bad luck than growing pains. Poskay said he hasn’t become a more selective shooter — he’s actually averaging a shot more a game — but his shooting percentage has jumped from 21.1 percent to a spectacular 43.1 percent (28-for-65) and bolstered his confidence in the process.

“It seems like he was getting the same shots,” said fellow junior Kyle Dixon, who also has emerged as a key midfielder with 16 goals and 16 assists after a shaky 2004. “A lot of them were just not falling. He’s finding the seams, and he’s letting the game come to him.”

Oddly, Poskay has managed his breakout season without an assist. Still, he’s done exactly what’s been asked of him, using his precise shot to soften opposing defenses for Virginia attackmen John Christmas, Ben Rubeor and Matt Ward.

“He’s got an instinct about getting open without the ball,” Starsia said. “He’s absolutely the most unselfish player on the team, but his stats just don’t show it. He’s remarkable. He’s the kind of kid that nobody resents the fact that he doesn’t have an assist yet. I think it’s a fluke, a statistical anomaly. You play on a lacrosse field that much, you should throw the ball to someone who scores once in a while.”

Added Poskay: “I’m just working hard off the ball to get open. It’s pretty much a fluke. It’s kind of a joke around here. I could have had a couple of assists, but I’m an off-ball player. When I’m catching the ball, it’s time to let it rip.”

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