Offense could be more prevalent than expected in Princeton-Virginia match

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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — The stereotype of Princeton’s lacrosse teams is not a pleasant one for fans of high-octane games.

But as the Tigers head to Virginia for Sunday’s opening-round NCAA tournament game, U.Va. coach Dom Starsia said he’s not seeing it in this year’s edition.

“They’re more aggressive offensively than people imagine Princeton to be,” Starsia said. “I think there could be more offense in this game than people think. And some of the issue may be our ability to create offensive opportunities.”

The Cavaliers (11-3) enter as the tournament’s No. 5 seed, with Princeton (11-4) unranked but considered one of the final at-large selections.

Last year, the Wahoos were in a similar position, but needed overtime to squeak by Bucknell at home, a game that was almost a premature end to U.Va.’s championship run.

“These early games are very different than they used to be,” Starsia said. “The top two teams have games I think they can manage, but the other six have very interesting games. It used to be five or six teams that had their way.”

He cited Princeton’s confidence when shooting, comparing the task of stopping them to basketball teams that have to defend against strong 3-point shooters.

During last season’s tournament, the ‘Hoos occasionally went to a zone defense, and while Starsia wasn’t tipping his hand for Saturday’s game, he’d likely have to see the Tigers struggle on longer shots before implementing it.

For Virginia’s offense, one of the keys will be Steele Stanwick, who was the difference-maker in last year’s tournament.

He has struggled through injuries all year, but will again be counted on if U.Va. wants to repeat as champions.

Last week, he was named one of five finalists for the Tewaaraton Trophy, given to the sport’s best player. Stanwick won the award last year. Since voting takes place after the playoffs, unlike the procedure in other sports, postseason performance is a big factor in who wins the award.

Stanwick also is playing for a spot in the history books during this year’s postseason. He is No. 22 on the list of all-time points leaders in Division I lacrosse, and is six points away from moving into the 20th spot. Stanwick has 260 points in his career; the NCAA record is 343 by Air Force’s Joe Vasta.

Those thoughts are all secondary to winning the game, though, and Starsia said that with Princeton’s defense preparing for Stanwick, it’s the other players who could make the difference.

“They have somebody to put on Steele,” the coach said. “The question is: Can we make enough happen otherwise?”

Read more about the Cavaliers at TimesDispatch.com

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