The Virginia Cavaliers (12-5) will take on the Maryland Terrapins (13-4) for the 2011 NCAA Lacrosse National Title at 3:30 p.m. EST in M&T Stadium in Baltimore. The game will be televised live on ESPN.
Virginia come into the National Championship with hardships they've overcome, and in a few cases, ones they're still overcoming.
It seems so long ago now that the Virginia lacrosse program was thrown into upheaval after it was revealed that women's lacrosse player Yeardley Love was found dead in her apartment and the main suspect was men's lacrosse player George Huguely. The details surrounding the case were rattling and for a sport already suffering from an image problem when it came to how its players treat women, it was devastating news.
Virginia head coach Dom Starsia put it all in succinct terms as his team prepared to play for a championship a year removed from the tragedy.
"It's been quite a journey for a lot of years. It has been very tough at times, but we've gotten through it as best as we can."
Included in Starsia's sentiments is certainly former team captain Will Barrow, who committed suicide in 2008.
As for Huguely, he'll be sitting in his jail cell Monday as he awaits a February 6th, 2012 trial. A grand jury indicted him last month for first-degree and felony murder.
Starsia used a stricter set of standards for himself and his team as one way to get through the issues. Those standards are a big reason why senior midfielder Shamel Bratton was dismissed from the team earlier this season. His twin brother, Rhamel, was suspended indefinitely as well. Both were expected to be major contributors and were long-considered top prospects.
Starsia drew the line at whatever insubordination they caused. He doesn't have the luxury of letting players slide in his program these days. Too many emotions, too many off-field issues and too many potential pitfalls. The tight ship has paid dividends on the field as the Cavaliers attempt to win their fourth title under Starsia's watch. If they do win, it might just be the sweetest one of them all.