- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 27, 2008

CHARLOTTESVILLE — Midfielder Shamel Bratton’s arrival at Virginia — along with his twin brother Rhamel — this season was perhaps the most hyped in college lacrosse history.

So with nearly a full season to his credit, Bratton’s had more than enough time to take stock of what possessed the potential to be a most unusual season.

“It’s nothing different,” Bratton insisted.

It isn’t shabby, either.

Bratton scored two second-half goals in Friday’s ACC semifinals against Maryland, helping the No. 3 Cavaliers (12-2) earn a rematch with top-ranked Duke (14-1) in today’s conference title game at Klockner Stadium.

It was Bratton’s second multi-goal game, a modest number that belies a generally solid debut. With 12 goals, he has surpassed the freshman year performances of eventual All-Americans Kyle Dixon, Matt Poskay and Chris Rotelli.

Meanwhile, Rhamel Bratton (13 points) has outpaced Poskay and Rotelli, though he was blanked in Virginia’s last four games.

“This whole thing rolls off his and his brother’s back like nothing you’ve seen,” coach Dom Starsia said. “It bothers you and me way more than it bothers them. The fans and the pundits and the people that want to be angry and jealous for some reason, they go crazy. I’m not even sure these two kids notice.”

Shamel Bratton certainly doesn’t. He shrugged off any wariness of hype and expectations Friday, instead preferring to discuss the text messages he has received from Duke’s Zach Howell and Sean Brady, teammates from high school who aren’t quite ready to let Bratton forget the Blue Devils’ 19-9 rout of Virginia on April 12.

Really, he has endured typical problems a freshman would encounter, even while running on the first midfield line of a perennial power. It starts with finding effective shots — and then placing them somewhere in vicinity of the goal.

That made Friday’s game something of a microcosm. Bratton sprayed shots all over the place early on, then cranked a pair of darts in from 15 yards out once he started firing on cage.

“I think Shamel’s been playing well all year,” attackman Garrett Billings said. “He’s got a cannon of a shot, so any time you play a zone like that and sag a lot, he’s going to let it rip — and he’s not afraid to shoot.”

Added Bratton: “I’ve been comfortable. A little frustrated, but I’ve definitely been comfortable. Guys out here, the seniors and coaches, they know I’m not uncomfortable or scared or anything. It’s just following through with the basics.”

When that happens with regularity, it could make the Cavaliers particularly potent. Their midfield already features a breakout star in sophomore Brian Carroll, and veteran Peter Lamade helps keep Virginia’s offense fluid.

But an additional scoring threat from outside could help Virginia contend for its third national title since 2003 — and perhaps an upset of Duke today.

“They’re going to wind up with more points than Kyle Dixon as a freshman,” Starsia said of both Brattons. “They’re going to wind up with more points as freshmen than Chris Rotelli. They’re going to wind up with more points than Brian Carroll a year ago.

“They’re having a nice freshman year, and if they bust out just a little bit down the stretch here, we have a chance to really get something done.”

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