April 9, 2010

Clausen Breaks Down Match-Up with Bitter

by Clare Lochary | Lacrosse Magazine Online Staff

Ken Clausen looks forward to his rematch with Billy Bitter, who got the better of him when Virginia and North Carolina met in the Big City Classic last year.

© Matt Riley

When No. 1 Virginia and No. 2 North Carolina square off Saturday in the signature game of the Konica Minolta Big City Classic at the New Meadowlands, all eyes will be on one match-up: UVA defenseman Ken Clausen on UNC attackman Billy Bitter.

“You don’t want to try to change too much heading into a game and overanalyze a game too much," Clausen said during a conference call Wednesday. "Our team has a pretty similar mindset and strategy [for dealing with Carolina, as opposed to other opponents].

"With Billy, he is very quick and attacks the goal very well and very hard, and that’s something we need to prepare for. He’s very fast, and he makes it very difficult to slide to him, but we don’t want to try to overreach or over-analyze something. If we keep playing like we have been, we should be able to do what we would like out there."

Here are some more Clausen nuggets on the eve of the big game.

On facing the opponent's top threat: "I’ve had the opportunity to go against some great attackmen -- [Cornell's Rob] Pannell, [Hopkins' Steven] Boyle and Ryan Young last week at Maryland. All those guys are great for our defense to see and great lead-ins to this game with Billy. If our defense was struggling a little bit, we’d try to analyze some more, but I really feel confident in the way our defense has been playing.

"I did have the opportunity to meet him (when Clausen visited friends in Chapel Hill). He’s a great guy off the field, and that’s one of the great things about lacrosse – you have the ability to have these great rivalries on the field and great friendships off the field."

On his memories of the Meadowlands, and the chance to play in the new stadium: "My memories aren’t the best up there. Last year Billy kind of got the best of me. I’m excited to get back up there in the new stadium and possibly erase some of those memories a little bit and start on a clean slate.

"I’m a huge football fan. It be able to be one of the first main events in a brand new facility. It is an honor and thrill. To be able to see a new facility in this day and age is going to be an absolute a treat for us, and something to tell family and friends for a long time to come.

On Virginia's balance: "One of the best things about our team this year has been when our defense has struggled, our offense has picked up the slack, and vice versa… UNC’s defense has been having a great year, and they’re one of the best in the country. It’s a very big and rangy defense. It’s going to be a great test for our offense. On the flip side, it’s a great offense to test our defense. It’s going to be a very tough task for us, and we’re up to the challenge and excited to see how it plays out."

On the opportunity to create ground balls in transition: "That’s our style of game in general. At Virginia, we like to push the pace a little bit and create transition opportunities. We have a very fast defense and an extreme fast midfield, and I think that does cause people some problems. That is the style of play that we’ve been taught, and we enjoy playing, and we really do hope to create some scoring opportunities for us out of those scoring situations."

On whether or not this game is a preview of the national championship: I think obviously this is a big game for us with it being No. 1 versus No. 2. It’s definitely a measuring stick. That being sad, it’s not going to determine the rest of the season. Chances are we see these ACC teams twice, if not three times. Right now it’s tough to say that this game will determine anything in the long run. That takes a little bit of pressure off. We’re really excited to see where we are, both teams being 10-0, one versus two, the top four teams being there. We’re going to be able to grow a lot out of this experience and take a lot from this.

Music to be played before the game: I’ve been thinking about that actually…A lot of it depends on my mood before the game. Sometimes it’s heavy metal. Sometimes it’s rap. Being in New York, I might get some Jay-Z going, some Biggie before I step on the field.

On not overplaying Bitter: "Billy is extremely quick and he’s very good at making you turn your hips and reacting when you do. With some of that, the further you push out, the more you might get yourself in trouble. This year I have played a little more conservative, and that’s worked in my favor. Like I said, he’s one of the best in the game, one of the best I’ve seen in a long time. I’m excited for the task. Our defense is definitely excited to see what we can do.”

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