Turning to `D' earns Cavs `A'

Offense-oriented Virginia finally finishes job with Kenney, Curtis and Co.


June 01, 1999|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,SUN STAFF

COLLEGE PARK -- Coach Dom Starsia said Virginia lacrosse was "always characterized by flash and sizzle." The Cavaliers' history was long on gaudy goal-getters, but short on gritty defense -- and titles.

Freshman attackman Conor Gill was voted the Most Outstanding Player in the NCAA tournament, but the all-tournament team also included Virginia goalie Derek Kenney and defensemen Ryan Curtis and Court Weisleder. In view of the manner in which the Cavaliers shut down Syracuse for three quarters yesterday, it wouldn't have been a stretch to include Doug Davies, the third defenseman, or long-stick Pete Ragosa.

"Our defense had a lot of pressure on them," Virginia attackman Tucker Radebaugh said. "When we [the Cavaliers' seniors] came in, we were so talented offensively, but the whole thing turned around. They say that defense wins championships. Our defense won this championship.

"That, to me, was the difference from our other teams."

Syracuse was held to a season-low four goals through three quarters. It was stuck on three for more than 19 minutes of the second and third periods, when it attempted 21 shots and connected on just two.

Kenney became the first freshman goalie to win the title since Quint Kessenich was in the cage for Johns Hopkins in 1987. Syracuse got the first goal, but Kenney stopped the Orangemen cold over a 12-minute span, while Virginia moved out to a 5-1 lead it would never relinquish.

"That first goal is usually a kick in the pants for me," Kenney said. "I knew I wasn't working hard enough," and I said, `I should have had that.' We did almost everything right. The guys in front of me were great."

Curtis limited Casey Powell to one assist in the first 47 minutes, although his fellow first-team All-American finally got untracked in the fourth quarter. Powell injured his lower back late in Syracuse's semifinal win over Georgetown, and the playmaker couldn't handle the ball as often as the Orangemen prefer.

"Ryan Curtis is probably one of the best defensemen in the country, and I had to be very smart with the ball," Powell said. "Even if I was 100 percent, I wouldn't have pushed it against him."

The other match-ups saw Weisleder on Matt Cutia and Davies on Liam Banks.

Lightening up

Starsia showed a sense of humor as he celebrated the championship.

Starsia, a member of the NCAA selection committee, received some criticism when Virginia received a favorable draw in many coaches' eyes. Minutes after the game, he posed with the committee for a photograph, saying, "Hey, I set this whole thing up, right?" just before the flash.

Needless to say, everyone was captured with a smile.

Family ties

The Radebaugh clan can celebrate another NCAA title.

Tucker's brother, Sean, played for Salisbury State's 1995 Division III champions. Doug, a second cousin, starred on Maryland's 1973 and '75 title teams. Ned, another member of one of Baltimore's most prominent lacrosse families, helped Hopkins to titles in 1978 and '79.

Dan, another brother of Tucker's, played for the Terps team that lost to Syracuse in the 1995 final.

Radebaugh and midfielder Jay Jalbert were among Virginia's six-man contingent on the all-tourney team. The 10-man team included Syracuse's Powell and defenseman Marshall Abrams; Hopkins attackman Dan Denihan and Georgetown attackman Scott Urick.


Virginia dedicated its season to long-time publicist Doyle Smith, who's retiring after 31 years at the school. Smith, a 1966 honors graduate of Hopkins, served as the information director for the USILA for 23 years. The Syracuse seniors were the first class to leave without an NCAA title since the group that arrived in the fall of 1984. Virginia's title was the eighth for the Atlantic Coast Conference, matching the Ivy League. Syracuse and Johns Hopkins are the only programs outside those conferences with Division I titles.

Sun staff writer Jamison Hensley contributed to this article.

Pub Date: 6/01/99

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