BALTIMORE — Colin Briggs stood on the Virginia lacrosse team's sideline in street clothes Saturday afternoon wondering if he would finish the season as a bystander.
Being suspended for the Cavaliers' national semifinal against Denver was a low point for the all-Atlantic Coast Conference midfielder. "A team matter," as Virginia coach Dom Starsia called it, meant Briggs would miss the most important game of the year.
"I was definitely disappointed in myself," Briggs said.
Fast forward, then, to Monday evening. Briggs sat behind a microphone in the bowels of M&T Bank Stadium with eye black smeared on his face and a national championship cap pulled down over his brow, the portrait of redemption.
He helped Virginia claim its fifth national championship by scoring a career-high five goals in a 9-7 victory over Maryland. The redshirt junior would have been a goat had the Cavaliers fallen in the semifinals, but he ended up being named the tournament's most outstanding player.
"I felt like I could come back and give everything I had," Briggs said. "I was able to get some opportunities, and my shot selection [was good]."
The Cavaliers badly needed his help, too.
Junior attackman Steele Stanwick, the ACC player of the year, was limited to one assist Monday after totaling nine goals in Virginias previous three games. Stanwick commanded the attention of Marylands defense, and Briggs capitalized on the space afforded him.
After the Cavaliers were shut out in the first quarter, he got them untracked with a shot from 10 yards into the upper right-hand corner of the goal.
He then tied the game at 3 with 4:24 left in the first half by circling from the behind the goal and beating Maryland goalie Niko Amato with a turnaround shot.
Briggs earned his hat trick less than three minutes later when his shot from 12 yards sneaked inside the left post.
"I couldn't be happier for Colin," Stanwick said. "I know he felt really bad about Saturday, and we knew if we got a win on Saturday we'd have a chance to get him back here. For him to come out here and play how he did speaks a lot about who he is."
Briggs wasn't done, though. He scored in the third quarter to make it 6-3 and ignited the championship celebration on Virginia's sideline when he scored with 1:50 remaining.
Afterward, he walked out the interview room, past the championship trophy and a coach who sounded more like a father eager for his son to learn a lesson.
Starsia shuffled in his seat when ask to put into perspective Briggs' 48-hour turnaround.
"I'm happy for Colin that he scored some goals," Starsia said. "I don't think that was the most important piece of what happened over the last couple of days. I don't mean to be melodramatic, but what I do for a living is try to help young guys grow up a little bit, and hopefully he gets a little smarter because of what he went through."
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