Yevoli faces former team

Syracuse attackman played for Virginia during 2003 title run


Lacrosse Final Four


PHILADELPHIA -- Syracuse attackman Joe Yevoli comes into his last NCAA tournament final four experience with mixed emotions.

When Yevoli lines up to face top-seeded, undefeated Virginia today at Lincoln Financial Field, the graduate student will be trying to beat the team with which he won a national title in 2003, and Yevoli will be thrilled to have his father, Joseph, in attendance.

Yevoli's father was found to have cancer in November. Doctors removed a tumor from his leg, then found the disease had spread to his lungs and liver. He is responding to treatment, and was in a wheelchair last week at Stony Brook University, where he watched his son produce two goals and three assists to help Syracuse edge Johns Hopkins in the quarterfinals.

Yevoli, who is pursuing a master's degree in information studies at Syracuse, said he harbors no bad feelings toward Virginia, where he tied for the team lead in scoring (49 points) in 2003, before suffering a fractured vertabra working out before the 2004 season. He played with the injury that spring, and scored 31 points, despite the loss of some endurance and ability to change direction with his usual quickness.

The ailment forced him to sit out the 2005 season.

"It's been an interesting six months. My dad is not in remission yet, but he is slowly responding to treatment," said Yevoli, who graduated from Virginia last May and plans to return to Syracuse as a graduate assistant coach next year.

"I had a great time [at Virginia]. I just didn't want to spend my fifth year there," he added. "This is a nice opportunity [today]. It's not so much that it's Virginia specifically. It's the No. 1 team in the country, and they haven't lost a game."

Yevoli expects another shootout, not unlike the 20-15 Virginia win over the Orange on March 4.

"I think we're the last two teams that run and gun," he said. "People like to see that. I can't see it being any different."

First-timers focus

UMass coach Greg Cannella choked up several times during the post-game news conference, following the Minutemen's 11-10 overtime victory over Hofstra in the quarterfinals, in which UMass scored the last six goals. His players were emotional on the field and in the locker room.

Now, the challenge is not to feel too good about just getting to the school's first final four.

"We've got to keep our feet on the ground. This group, more than any group we've had in a while, understands that," Cannella said.

Senior midfielder Jamie Yaman got the Hofstra win out of his system with a pen.

"I keep a journal, and I locked myself in a room for an hour and wrote down everything I remembered about the game, to get if off of my mind," Yaman said.

Wow factor

Virginia coach Dom Starsia looks at this weekend - and especially the Cavs' much-anticipated showdown with Syracuse - partly as proof that the controversial, premature end of Duke's lacrosse season has taken a back seat to the stories on the field.

"It's a time when our sport maybe needs a showcase game, given some other things that are going on," Starsia said. "I feel like the games are a little more important, with the way people are looking at us. You hope we have a glorious weekend with great lacrosse, and people walk away saying `Wow!' And the rest of that stuff is diminished."

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