- The Washington Times - Monday, May 26, 2003

BALTIMORE — The other member of the Virginia attack is hardly an afterthought at this year’s final four.

Matt Ward, who quietly toiled in the shadow of sophomores John Christmas and Joe Yevoli all season, had four goals in a rout of Maryland Saturday and could be a critical source of offense again this morning when the second-seeded Cavaliers (14-2) face top-seeded Johns Hopkins (14-1) in the NCAA men’s lacrosse final at M&T; Bank Stadium.

“He’s just a good lacrosse player,” Virginia coach Dom Starsia said. “He has poise beyond his years from a freshman. He’s a strong kid … Matthew has had this kind of year where he is quite capable of taking advantage of situations as they unfold. I have no qualms about putting the ball in his stick in key situations.”

Starsia anointed Ward the third attackman in the preseason. More importantly, the Oakton native was taking the spot of Conor Gill, who had rolled up 77 goals and 146 assists before graduating last spring.

Ward has thrived playing alongside Christmas and Yevoli. The Landon School product has 25 goals and 20 assists while starting every game as a freshman.

“I have to attribute most of my season to those two players,” Ward said. “I’m the third man out there and I may get lost and slip under some radars. But when you have John and Joe drawing most of the attention, you can kind of capitalize on some people not really recognizing you.”

Ward has played well for much of the season. He scored three goals when the Cavaliers upset then-No.1 Syracuse 16-15 at the Carrier Dome on March1 and scored four times in Virginia’s 11-10 defeat of Penn State on April26.

Ward has heated up in the NCAA tournament. He had a goal and an assist in a rout of Mount St. Mary’s and then notched four points in Virginia’s 12-7 quarterfinal defeat of Georgetown.

“He’s a year behind Christmas and Yevoli and you almost don’t say one without the other and then, oh yeah, that’s right, we also have Ward,” Starsia said. “He’s been a 20-20 guy as a freshman. We always thought going in he’d be part of the foundation of our attack for a couple years.”

Yet Saturday was a coming-out party of sorts for Ward. Matched against emerging star Lee Zink, who had shut down the top scorers of the Terrapins’ last four opponents, Ward scored four times as Virginia rolled to a 14-4 victory.

He joined North Carolina’s Austin Garrison as the only players to score four goals against Maryland this season.

“I couldn’t believe it. He was just scoring every time I turned around,” said Yevoli, who had five points against the Terps. “It was unbelievable to have a freshman have a final four game like that.”

Like much of the Virginia offense, Ward had a quiet day when the Cavaliers lost 8-7 at Hopkins on March22. A repeat of his semifinal performance could help push Virginia past the Blue Jays and complete what has so far been a near-perfect freshman season.

“It’s greater than any expectations I’d ever had coming into this year, starting in a national championship game,” said Ward, who was defended by Hopkins’ Chris Watson in the teams’ first meeting. “Hopefully things will work out [today], but it’s going to take a great game from us since we’re playing a great team in Hopkins.”

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