- The Washington Times - Friday, May 19, 2006

When two of top-seeded Virginia’s offensive stars (attackman Matt Ward and midfielder Kyle Dixon) were named finalists for college lacrosse’s Tewaaraton Trophy earlier this week, it was an acknowledgment of both their fine play and the Cavaliers’ pinball-like offense.

Yet without nearly as much recognition, Virginia’s staunch defense is an important part of the Cavaliers’ 14-0 record entering Sunday’s NCAA quarterfinal against eighth-seeded Georgetown (11-2).

With junior Kip Turner (.587 save percentage) steady in goal, Virginia is surrendering only 7.43 goals a game. Only four teams have cracked double figures against the Cavaliers, who gave up 37 goals in five games against teams still left in the tournament.

“If you’re going to try to take advantage and make plays quickly at the offensive end, you’re never going to be at the top of the statistical chart on defense,” Virginia coach Dom Starsia said. “The teams that have the best goals against average usually have the lowest shots per game average. Those things are related.

“Scoring goals is the hardest thing to do in lacrosse, so when we get a chance to run we do because I don’t want to get in the box and fight you.”

It has helped that freshmen Matt Kelly and Mike Timms have matured quickly. The development of the 6-foot-5 Timms, who redshirted last year with a knee injury, has been especially important after the Cavaliers lost long pole Rob Bateman after last season.

“I really thought we would lose something, and his stickhandling and ability to make plays and digging and checking has been the biggest surprise in the defensive end,” Starsia said.

Hopkins’ Christopher adapts

Johns Hopkins freshman Brian Christopher had to adjust not only to the college game this spring, but also a transition from attack to midfield.

It has worked out well for Christopher, who has 12 goals and has scored in 10 straight games — the most for a Hopkins freshman midfielder since 1980 — since moving into the starting lineup.

“We moved him up and he’s been terrific,” said coach Dave Pietramala, whose fourth-seeded Blue Jays (9-4) meet fifth-seeded Syracuse (9-4) tomorrow at Stony Brook. “Brian’s playing with a lot of confidence, and he’s adjusted his game to our offense. He’s played unselfishly and fit in with Greg [Peyser] and Paul [Rabil], which is not easy to do for a young kid.”

Mind games

One of the weekend’s interesting twists is the meeting of Maryland coach Dave Cottle and Princeton coach Bill Tierney on Sunday in a match of wits Starsia dubbed “Strategic Armageddon.” The two are close friends, and Tierney said they had spoken about 15 times between Sunday and Wednesday.

Tierney, whose seventh-seeded Tigers (11-4) haven’t played second-seeded Maryland (11-4) since a 9-8 overtime victory in the 2004 quarterfinals, said the matchup would not put their friendship on hold.

“I know he’s watching every film of every game we played,” said Tierney, who is 3-1 in his career against Cottle. “Ultimately it goes to the players, and they could care less. For that two hours, I don’t think either one of us cares. There are deeper and longer lasting ties than people might have a feel for.

“It makes the situation difficult, but it makes it comforting knowing one of us is going to the final four.”

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