- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 16, 2012

CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA. — There was little surprise Sunday on the Virginia sideline when midfielder Chris LaPierre stepped in front of a shot in the closing seconds to preserve a 6-5 victory over Princeton and extend the Cavaliers’ season.

There just isn’t much shocking about the guy they call Shocker.

“He’s just a tough guy,” said defenseman Matt Lovejoy, who was standing next to LaPierre at the time and also tried to block the shot. “It’s fitting he took it off the chest — like King Kong.”

LaPierre’s frenetic game, from locking down opponents as a short stick defensive midfielder to work on faceoff wings to a vital role in transition, is a constant for Virginia. He’s a two-time All-ACC pick and was a third-team All-America pick last season.

It is not the resume normally associated with a man whose scoring total has declined over his three seasons. Yet goals don’t capture the value LaPierre provides to the fifth-seeded Cavaliers (12-3), who meet fourth-seeded Notre Dame (12-2) in Sunday’s NCAA quarterfinals at PPL Park in Chester, Pa.

“You never get recruited and you think to yourself ‘Well, I’m going to be a great d-middie,’” LaPierre said. “That’s just not a thought process. At the same time, when you come to a program like the University of Virginia and you have an opportunity to step on the field with great players … that if you can just add your name to that list and contribute in any way, then it’s worth it.”

Like so many of his teammates, LaPierre arrived on campus as a heralded recruit and an imposing athlete. He also came with his own nickname, one that stuck with him since he was 5 and inflicted a hit in a youth football game that left parents stunned.

The Shocker persona never went away. Virginia coach Dom Starsia recalled a few hits he saw LaPierre deliver in person during high school football games. Yet like everyone else, LaPierre needed to win over his new teammates.

“The first impression was ‘There’s no chance I’m calling him Shocker,’ ” Lovejoy said. “Even Dom called him Shocker LaPierre, like Shocker is his actual first name. The thing is, it’s a fitting nickname. He has a swagger about him.”

He’s also a veritable freight train on the field, quick as well as big. He leads Virginia with 58 groundballs, and also provided a crucial assist on a 45-yard pass to Steele Stanwick just before halftime against Princeton in the Cavaliers’ tournament opener.

Lovejoy said LaPierre has mellowed some over the last few years, an observation Starsia concurs with. What remains is a significant player who Starsia considers one of the best short stick faceoff wings he’s witnessed in 30 years as a head coach.

“I have spent a lot of time talking about his people skills; if you want to be a leader, then you have to make people want to follow and listen to you,” Starsia said. “He’s always been Shocker. I think that’s easy for him. It’s been fun to watch him learn to be Chris a little bit.”

One constant in LaPierre’s career is a long list of duties. The temptation is there for Starsia expand LaPierre’s usage, and Virginia did run more 5-on-5 transition Sunday. Starsia also does not discount the possibility of using LaPierre more on offense next season.

Still, his performance on faceoff wings and defense make it difficult to justify exhausting him in other areas.

“You’ve got to do what you’re asked,” LaPierre said. “For me, it’s the work. For Steele, it’s the goals. For Rob [Fortunato], it’s making saves. Everyone has their job.”

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