If you don’t know her, Caroline Darney (@cwdarney) is a UVA graduate and long time contributor with our sister site Streaking the Lawn. While she has moved up over here at SBNation, she still holds down all things lacrosse at STL and does a great job covering the Hoos. And, for now, we won’t hold her Georgetown affiliation against her.
Caroline was kind enough to battle through my brutal spelling and answer a few questions for us. Enjoy her thoughtful answers and check out the game today as the Virginia Cavaliers host the Syracuse Orange.
1. This is the second year in a row where we’ve seen Virginia bring in some really productive freshmen, of that group who should we be most worried about offensively?
Definitely Ian Laviano. He was the #53 ranked incoming freshman and the #15 attackman by Inside Lacrosse, but Laviano has been incredible through the first four games with 14 goals and three assists. He’s tied for 6th in the NCAA in goals per game at 3.5 gpg (which is ahead of guys like UNC’s Chris Cloutier and Duke’s Justin Guterding), and has a shot that is just killer. He’s putting a nice 69% of his shots on goal, and has scored on 14 of 26 shots (54%). He takes high percentage shots, and converts.
2. Speaking of freshmen, I thought Matt Moore has been playing very well. Do you see Tiffany flipping things around and putting him on the first team in place of Matt Emery?
I think that may be coming soon. He has definitely been getting burn with the first line midfield alongside Dox Aitken and Ryan Conrad, and Coach Tiffany likes to mix and match. Moore got a little banged up last week and left the game against Princeton in the first half with his arm hanging motionless. I was terrified about something having been torn, but he came back in and looked 100% in the second half. He has a tendency to hold the ball a little too long at times, and his six goals (good) are on 23 shots (bad). Emery is a smart player, but can telegraph shots a bit. Moore has a good frame and a hard shot, and he’s going to be outstanding for the Hoos.
3. The Princeton game was a shootout. We saw a lot of in close goals and opportunities for both teams. Is there a big concern regarding the interior defense?
This defense will have moments where they look like a championship caliber defense, then they’ll have breakdowns you’d expect from a JV squad. The slide schemes are significantly better this season than last, and Princeton was able to get off some ridiculous quick stick shots that definitely put Alex Rode in a tough spot. Scott Hooper is a great defender, and I think the defense is improving slightly each game. After giving up 10 first half goals to Princeton, the Hoos only allowed five in the second half (with two coming in garbage time with a five goal lead).
4. Kyle Kology is a pretty good story, was anyone really aware of how good this kid could be?
I love his story. I chatted with Coach Tiffany about him, and he describes him as a guy that has unimpressive numbers (speed, strength, etc), but just has a nose for the game that you can’t teach. Just in a few games you can see that from him. For a first year, he’s got an uncanny sense of the game and the smart play to make, whether that’s flicking the ball forward away from traffic in a ground ball situation or keeping an active stick and knocking down passes. He’s got five ground balls and six caused turnovers so far this season, with no penalties. I’m excited about this kid.
5. The goalie situation over the last couple of years has been shaky. Have they found their guy in Rode, and how quick do you think Tiffany will be to go back to Griffin Thompson?
Rode is outstanding, and that sucks for Griffin Thompson. Given last year’s situation (Barrett no longer being an option), Thompson was honestly really good down the stretch and kept the Hoos in some games that would have been just (more) terrible blowouts without him (Duke and UNC come to mind). He started the first game this year because Rode was held out for a “coach’s decision”, and he played really well. That earned him the start against Drexel where he had nine saves and allowed just eight goals. Against High Point, he struggled, letting in six goals with no saves. Rode came in, allowing six goals and saving 11 shots over the final three quarters. Rode got his first start against Princeton and has a 50% save percentage on the season. He’s a sharp shooter on clears, leading to a goal last week against the Tigers.
6. This is probably the best chance for a Virginia win in the ACC since they beat SU in 2014. Do you see this team picking up one or more wins in the ACC?
I do, and I think that starts against the Orange. The last two games with Syracuse have finished 13-12, and I can see this being another back and forth, stressful affair. Duke is the class of the ACC again (gross), but UNC and Notre Dame have shown weaknesses. The ACC record has definitely been a pain in the ass over the past few seasons, so hopefully this squad can shake the monkey off their back.