- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 30, 2006

The Virginia lacrosse team had the personnel in place after last year’s final four run to be the sport’s offensive juggernaut throughout the spring.

It turns out two players who weren’t even with the Cavaliers last Memorial Day weekend helped make them exceptionally dangerous and among the favorites to win the national title next month in Philadelphia.

While holdovers Matt Poskay, Matt Ward and others have produced as expected, freshmen Garrett Billings and Danny Glading have made instant contributions for top-ranked Virginia (12-0), which will attempt to complete its first perfect regular season when it meets No. 3 Maryland (9-3) today in the ACC tournament final at Baltimore’s M&T; Bank Stadium.

Glading, who has 18 goals and 14 assists and was named the ACC’s freshman of the year Thursday, figured to have an immediate impact. He was highly regarded coming out of Bethesda’s Georgetown Prep and figured to slide into the spot vacated by John Christmas.

He was also familiar with the program after watching brother Billy start on midfield for the Cavaliers’ national championship team in 2003.

“I came in with a good amount of comfort level,” Glading said. “When you already know a lot of the seniors and the coaches, you’ve already made your first impressions. Then you can just focus on playing lacrosse and making friends.”

He’s done that easily enough with a smooth game that has ensured the involvement of the rest of the Cavaliers’ offense. Glading’s role as a conduit behind the cage has made Virginia more unpredictable and even more difficult to defend than originally anticipated.

Glading, though, still can get the goal when necessary, preventing opponents from placing a short stick on him that might otherwise go out to Virginia’s potent midfield.

“When you subtract John Christmas, we don’t attack the goal quite the same way,” Virginia coach Dom Starsia said. “But we had so much experience coming back. We made up for that in so many different spots. A healthy Ben Rubeor, a healthy Matt Poskay, a developing Drew Thompson, seniors Matt Ward and Kyle Dixon. It’s probably a better fit to have someone move the ball than to have someone whose first instinct is to go to the goal.”

Billings was a bit more of a wild card after growing up in British Columbia and playing indoors for much of his life. Yet his sense of the field game and ability to find open men has developed quickly; he has scored 24 goals and added 10 assists.

Like Glading, the slick lefty has caught some opponents off-guard with his well-developed game, something that cannot be ignored despite the array of talent surrounding him.

“It took me a while in the fall, but it’s been super-easy,” Billings said. “I just feed off the guys around me. They make it pretty easy.”

Billings’ crisp stick skills — a direct product of the tight spaces of the box game — also have grabbed his teammates’ attention. Starsia remembers a day in practice in which Rubeor was on the backside of a play as Billings dodged and then fired a pass to him he couldn’t have expected. There are also daily reminders of his ability to snare passes few others can.

“Sometimes he has people giggling about [his play],” Glading said. “It’s not something you’ve seen all that often. I’ve never been around a pure finisher like that.”

Added Starsia: “He is somebody I think early on guys didn’t know quite what to make of him. He was not in the starting lineup but could do these unbelievable things in practice. It wasn’t always the right thing, but it energized the entire offense. They’ve both brought an element of newness and enthusiasm that I think has really helped us.”

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