Virginia takes shot at crashing Carolina's ACC party Injuries threaten Heels' run of 7 titles in 8 years

April 21, 1996|By Roch Eric Kubatko | Roch Eric Kubatko,SUN STAFF

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. -- Forget about last year's loss to Duke. Treat it as if it never happened because its impact on the overall picture was minimal.

The Atlantic Coast Conference lacrosse tournament has become the personal property of North Carolina. And nobody understands this more than Virginia coach Dom Starsia, whose third-ranked Cavaliers (9-2) will play the fourth-ranked Tar Heels (11-3) in today's championship game at Klockner Stadium.

"It's going to take a terrific effort for us to sort of wrest control of this ACC tournament away from North Carolina," said Starsia, whose team took the first step by beating top-ranked Maryland, 13-9, Friday night. "It's very easy for them to feel like, 'This is our gig.' "

That's understandable. The Tar Heels had claimed seven consecutive ACC titles, including the first six championships since the tournament's inception in 1989, before being upset by Duke in last year's final. They are 13-1 in tournament games, producing six MVPs along the way.

The seventh could be senior midfielder Jason Wade (Severn), who tied a tournament record with six goals in Friday's 18-8 romp over Duke. He probably would have gotten more if coach Dave Klarmann hadn't removed him in the fourth quarter.

"I had no clue what the actual record was at the time," said Wade, whose 35 goals almost double the 18 he had as a junior. "I knew around how many I had, but not the exact number. Someone mentioned it to me later."

Wade said the loss to Duke in last year's final lifted some pressure off the Heels. "It helped us focus better this season," he said.

Klarmann had stated before the season that one defeat last spring wouldn't motivate his team. But what effect will two injuries have on the Tar Heels, who upset then-No. 1 Virginia, 19-18, earlier this month by dominating the midfield?

Junior attackman Merrill Turnbull, the ACC's second-leading scorer behind Virginia's Doug Knight, had three goals and two assists in the first quarter alone Friday, as Carolina built an 8-1 lead. But he slipped behind Duke's net 3: 27 before halftime and had to be helped off. The original diagnosis was a sprained right ankle, but the Tar Heels later found out it was broken.

Sophomore midfielder Mike Maier went down with a sprained ankle in the first half, making him doubtful for today.

"We lose a whole lot," Wade said. "Turnbull does so many things you wouldn't even notice, like setting up plays and just being in the right place at the right time. It hurts really bad, but you can't think about it too much. We need everyone to step up and play their best, and maybe we can cover up for it."

Both goalkeepers can cover defensive mistakes. North Carolina junior Brooks Brown had 11 saves in the semifinals and played his "best game by far," Klarmann said. Virginia's 5-foot-7 sophomore Chris Sanderson made eight of his 19 saves against Maryland in the fourth quarter, when the Terrapins outshot the Cavaliers 19-5.

The loss left Maryland still searching for its first ACC title since 1987. Though it could cost the Terps their No. 1 ranking, it was easier to swallow because of a tremendous fourth-quarter rally that included five straight goals to reduce Virginia's lead to 12-9.

"That shows a lot of heart," said senior defenseman Paal Elfstrum. "We could have thrown in the towel, but we didn't."

Pub Date: 4/21/96

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