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May 5, 2010

Lambrecht: Cloud Envelops Virginia Lacrosse

by Gary Lambrecht | Special to Lacrosse Magazine Online | Lambrecht Archive

* UVA Lax Player Dead; Another in Custody
* UVA: Huguely-Love Dispute; Teams to Play
* Statement: Virginia Lacrosse Teams will Continue Seasons

Five days before the NCAA Division I men’s lacrosse tournament field is unveiled, I would rather be immersed in the fun and games of bracketology and the scientific calculations of quality wins, bad losses, RPI and strength of schedule.

I would rather examine how Johns Hopkins could beat Loyola on Saturday and barely qualify for its 39th consecutive postseason. I would rather speculate how Stony Brook will come out of nowhere to make a run to the final four. I would prefer to handicap Maryland’s chances to win its first NCAA title in 35 years, or guess whether the crazily competitive Ivy League will send three schools to the dance and ruin things for a school such as Loyola or Hopkins or Georgetown.

And yet, with the terrible, tragic news that has come out of the lacrosse family at the University of Virginia -- home of one of the nation’s premier schools and elite lacrosse programs -- I find myself not caring much about the makeup of the 16-team bracket.

Since the news broke in Charlottesville on Monday that men’s lacrosse player George Huguely had been charged with first-degree murder in the death of women’s lacrosse player Yeardley Love, I haven’t given much thought to such trivialities as which teams will secure the last few at-large bids that are up for grabs.

Since a 22-year-old man was charged with killing a 22-year-old woman, leaving two families crushed and a campus in a state of disbelief, I haven’t fixated in the least on such mundane questions as who will keep Syracuse from winning its third consecutive NCAA men’s crown.

Real life and death once again have knocked fun and games into their place. Real life and death once again have brought a cloud back to Virginia, where coach Dom Starsia’s men’s team keeps getting smacked by fate’s cruel, random hand.

There was the death by apparent suicide in November 2008 of former team captain Will Barrow at age 22. Nearly 10 months ago, Mike Colley, the longtime assistant director of media relations and main lacrosse contact at Virginia -- a man as funny and charming as he was great at his job -- died of a heart attack at 46.

And now the Cavaliers, led by one of the classiest coaches in college sports in Starsia, are left to deal with another horrible wound. They are left to face and contemplate the suspected death of one of their own by the hand of one of their own.

The men’s team, on which Huguely played as a second-line midfielder, is the best squad I’ve seen this year. The Cavaliers, tough-minded on defense and loaded with speed, good shooters and unselfishness on offense, are top-ranked and expected to draw the tournament’s top seed. Virginia will be favored to win the school’s first national championship since 2006.

The sports writer and fan in me hopes that both Virginia lacrosse teams go far into their respective NCAA tournaments. The father in me keeps thinking about bigger things.

Yesterday, as I drove to pick up my first-grade son from school, I passed through Love’s hometown of Cockeysville, Md. I wondered where she used to live and how her parents and family could come to grips with such an awful loss. This morning, after putting my son on the school bus, exchanging waves and smiles with him, then watching him drive off, I started counting the hours until I would see him again.

Such are the moments when fun and games mean so little.

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