The sheer production that the Virginia men’s lacrosse team received out of Steele Stanwick, Chris Bocklet and Colin Briggs last season was staggering.
The trio combined for 160 points, which accounted for 52 percent of UVa’s offense.
Replacing that firepower is the biggest question that coach Dom Starsia faces heading into the season, which starts on Saturday at home against Drexel.
“We’ve gone from Matt Ward and Kyle Dixon to Danny Glading and Garrett Billings, to Steele Stanwick and Chris Bocklet,” said Starsia, referring to his long line of offensive studs. “And now it’s Mark Cockerton and Nick O’Reilly and James Pannell.
“It’s their turn to take the mantle of responsibility.”
Rob Emery, Ryan Tucker and Matt White are also in the main group that Starsia will be relying on to pick up the slack.
Last season, Emery had 24 goals, White had 16 and Tucker had 13.
Sophomore Owen Van Arsdale, the former St. Anne’s-Belfield standout who scored nine goals last season, is also expected to play a bigger role.
“We expect some of the returning guys to grow up a little bit,” Starsia said. “Rob Emery and Ryan Tucker are going to carry a lot of it. Matt White has been bumping between the attack and the midfield, so we feel like we’ve got some experience there.”
White is confident the new guys can step up.
“Those guys were great players, good people and I miss them a lot,” said White, referring to Stanwick and Bocklet, “but it’s a new crop of talent out here.”
Starsia says Virginia plans on taking advantage of some of the new rules that have been instituted this season that are aimed at preventing teams from stalling or playing at an abnormally slow pace.
“The rule changes suit us from both a personnel standpoint — because I think we have the midfielders to be able to get up and down the field — and from a personality standpoint, from the sense that it’s who we want to be,” he said.
Another big question facing the Cavaliers this season will be in goal. After being hampered by a thumb injury, freshman Dan Marino beat out sophomore Rhody Heller for the first crack at replacing Rob Fortunato. Marino was the No. 1-ranked goalie recruit in the country coming out of Garden City, N.J., by Inside Lacrosse.
“[Marino’s] got uncommon poise for a freshman kid, Rhody is a little bit bigger and is a very solid stopper...,” Starsia said. “How they’re going to react when the lights are on for real is still a question to be answered.”
Starsia thinks he’ll be OK with faceoffs, despite the loss of Ryan Benincasa.
“It will be a little by committee, but I’m sure Mick Parks will probably take the majority of them,” he said.
Parks won 71 of 135 faceoffs (53 percent) as a freshman.
After winning the NCAA title in 2011, Virginia went 12-4 last season before bowing out to Notre Dame in the quarterfinals of the NCAA Tournament.
Even with all the roster turnover this season, Starsia — whose team is ranked seventh and ninth in the two major polls — says “the goals for the program don’t change much.”
“What I would sort of beg of our fans is to just be the slightest bit patient,” he said. “We’ve got some new guys in key positions and clearly we’re going to develop as we gain confidence throughout the season. I think we’ll look like a very different team a couple weeks from now or a month from now than we do early in the year.
“But I’m not making excuses. I expect us to play well right off the bat and be able to do the things we want to do. We’re a program that graduates good players generally every year...but we’ve got the players who can step in. It may just take us a little while before we sort of resemble a Virginia lacrosse team — at the offensive end in particular.”