posted 02.28.2011 at 6.56 p.m. by Matt DaSilva

Starsia Offers No Special Treatment for Virginia's Star Players

By suspending senior goalkeeper Adam Ghitelman for the Virginia men's lacrosse team's season opener against Drexel and senior midfielders Rhamel and Shamel Bratton for the Cavaliers' game Saturday at Stony Brook, Starsia has sent a stern message to his star players.

We don't need you.

That's not actually the case, of course. If Virginia wants to win its first NCAA championship since 2006, it will need the school's all-time winningest goalie and its explosive, ankle-breaking Bratton brothers.

But the Wahoos have proven that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, as other players have stepped up to lead them to a 3-0 start and the No. 1 ranking in the USILA Division I poll. It would have been easy to let Ghitelman serve his suspension against Mount St. Mary's or keep the Bratton brothers' punishment on hold until tonight's game against VMI.

Instead, the suspensions came against two formidable, top-20 opponents. Rob Fortunato made his first career start in place of Ghitelman opposite Drexel's man child Mark Manos in the opener and made 12 saves, as Virginia won 12-9. On Saturday, the Cavaliers' defense did enough to keep Stony Brook's potent offense at bay, and old reliable Steele Stanwick scored five goals -- including the game winner in overtime -- of a 10-9 Virginia victory.

Starsia has not specifically confirmed the cause of the suspensions or said if alcohol was involved in either case. Of the Brattons, he said Saturday, "it's a little violation of team policy, that's all. It's been resolved." Of Ghitelman, he previously said it was a "team matter" that was "resolved."

Regardless the cause, it seems Starsia has tightened the ship, which is not a bad thing considering the scrutiny under which Virginia lacrosse resides with the George Huguely trial pending. It also bodes well for the Cavaliers to know that they have a capable backup goalie in Fortunato and a deep midfield that can compensate for any attrition.

Humble pie never tasted so good.