Winning lacrosse national championship without Brattons will be tough for Virginia

May 06, 2011|Mike Preston

When the Bratton twins, Rhamel and Shamel, were being recruited out of high school in Huntington, N.Y., all the college coaches knew they were cocky, arrogant and full of themselves.

Not much has changed the last four years during their stay at Virginia.

The question, though, is can No. 9 Virginia (9-5) survive without the two dominating midfielders and make a serious run deep into the post season?

Shamel Bratton (20 goals, eight assists) was dismissed from team and Rhamel (17, 5) was suspended indefinitely last week after violating team rules. That's a lot of firepower out of the Cavaliers lineup, especially from Shamel, a two-time first-team All-American.

Virginia has enough talent to compensate with attackmen Steele Stanwick (23, 26), Chris Bocklett (33, 5) and midfielder Colin Briggs (22, 12), but not enough depth to overcome.

"Even with Shamel, I didn't think Virginia would win the championship, and I don't know if the team will rally to prove that they can win without him," said Mark Dixon, a former Johns Hopkins midfielder and ESPN lacrosse analyst. "Sometimes when you remove a negative, you expect a positive.

"This senior class at Virginia was highly touted and they will do well because this is Virginia and they went there to win a national championship. That is their mindset. With Shamel, you had a player that made everyone around him better because of his athleticism, speed and the way he could draw attention from the defense. But they still have enough talent and leaders on offense where they'll be fine."

It's been a strained and strange relationship between the Brattons and the university, and the Cavaliers' program has been under scrutiny for the past four seasons for various other issues.

"In hindsight, you'd probably sit back and asked yourself was it worth it?," Dixon said of the Brattons. "But coming out of high school, there wasn't a college coach in the country that wouldn't have taken them."

Towson University athletic officials are expected to make a decision on the future of Tigers lacrosse coach Tony Seaman early next week. The Tigers went 3-10 this season and won only one game in the Colonial Athletic Association, which is one more game than the basketball and football teams won in the conference.

Unfortunately for Seaman, Towson has a new athletic director (Mike Waddell) and the Tigers are building a new arena. The Tigers already have great athletic facilities, so it's time to get some wins.

In lacrosse, Towson plays one of the toughest, if not the toughest, schedule in the country. Seaman is a great coach, and few do as much for their players after they graduate.

But even he would be the first to point out that this season was an extreme disappointment. Seaman might be asked to get rid of an assistant or two, which would put him in a similar position as Navy's Richie Meade after the Middies finished 4-9 this past season.

Count Dixon as one of those who loves watching the Division III game.

A couple weeks ago, I stated that watching a Stevenson-Salisbury game was more exciting than watching most Division I games, maybe with the exception of a Syracuse versus Virginia contest when both teams are at the top of their games.

Dixon agrees. He also suggests that a Stevenson or Salisbury could be competitive with the second tier of top Division I teams, those in the No. 15 through No. 25 range.

"It's a different style in Division III," said Dixon. "They run up and down the field, they work it, they go goal to goal. They've got talented plays, great stick work and its high octane. Even their long stick midfielders and close defensemen have a green light to go to the goal.

"The Division I game is so structured, and if you made those kinds of mistakes that come from the fast-paced game in Division III, you would pay for them in Division I. But I think the top D-III schools could hang with the second tier D-I schools."

As much as those in lacrosse like to brag about parity in the sport, there really isn't any. Unless you're Syracuse, Notre Dame, Hopkins, Maryland, Duke, North Carolina, Cornell or Virginia, everybody else is just playing for fun because one of those teams will win the national championship every year.

Very seldom has the pattern changed.

As usual, I pick the Orange to win the national championship this season, and just about every season. Syracuse simply gets the best athletic talent in the country.

Former Hopkins goalie Quint Kennsenich is correct when he says Denver's home-field advantage is the altitude.

If I were Denver coach Bill Tierney, I'd try to schedule two new home games a year because unless you've played their before you really don't know how much that altitude can slow a team down.

The altitude has been a major advantage for the NFL's Denver Broncos for decades.

Princeton won't be making an appearance in the Ivy League or NCAA tournaments. The Tigers have been hurt by a rash of injuries to players such as senior attackman Jack McBride (groin), sophomore defenseman Rob Castelo (torn knee ligaments) and sophomore midfielder Mike Chanenchuk (broken collarbone). In addition, short-stick defensive midfielders Oscar Loynaz (shoulder) and freshman Nick Fernandez (broken arm) also spent time on the sidelines.

The Tigers finished 4-8. Regardless of the injuries, there are those at the school who are still wishing Tierney was the head coach.

mike.preston@baltsun.com

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