October 26, 2012

30 in 30: Where Will Virginia Find Its Offense?

Casey Bocklet, who played in 22 games for Northwestern last year, is one of three high-profile Division I transfers to land at Virginia.
© Lee Weissman

by Clare Lochary | LaxMagazine.com | Twitter

There's no way around it – the graduation of Josie Owen was a big loss for Virginia. The attacker led the team in points (77) that were nicely divided between goals (42) and assists (35). The second points leader, Sloan Warren, had less than half (39) of Owen's points total.

"I'm definitely biased, but I think that Josie was awesome. Are we going to have another Josie? I just don't think they come around that often," said Cavaliers coach Julie Myers.

Fortunately, there is superior talent waiting in the wings, including an intriguing trio of sophomore transfers from high-profile programs: midfielders Casey Bocklet (Northwestern), Sally Jentis (Florida) and Caroline Seats (Georgetown).

"I think Casey's disposition is great and game sense is as good as Josie's and as good as anyone's," said Myers.

Bocklet played in 22 games for the Wildcats at midfield and attack. She started in only four of them, but she was a big contributor in Northwestern's 8-6 win over Syracuse in the NCAA championship, where her crease moves neutralized a faceguard on Shannon Smith. Bocklet finished the season with 13 goals and 22 assists. Bocklet is the younger sister of former Virginia men's lacrosse star Chris Bocklet and current Team USA defender Matt Bocklet.

Jentis played in 16 games for the Gators, starting in six of them early in the season and amassing 11 ground balls and 12 draw controls. Seats came off the bench for the Hoyas in 13 games, contributing four ground balls and 10 draw controls. All three players asked for releases from their former schools before contacting Virginia.

"It was strange timing and dumb luck. We knew what we were losing [to graduation], and we knew what we needed," said Myers.

The quick turnaround on the transfer process had benefits over the drawn-out courtship of a typical high school player. Top programs like Virginia get verbal commitments early and wait two years before the recruits arrive on campus. Even then, not all freshmen adapt to college life and college lacrosse smoothly. By contrast, the Cavaliers' new transfer players are ready to go. Bocklet has integrated into the attack smoothly, and will be able to work with freshman Taylor Rantfle, the 2012 Heather Leigh Albert Award winner, who is a tiny (5-foot-2) but productive crease player.

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"She's like that short batter with no strike zone. She's a little kid who plays with a short stick and she keeps it tucked in," said Myers.

Defensively, the Cavaliers are well-fixed with returning goalie Kim Kolarik, who looked sharp in a fall ball scrimmage against Georgetown and had a shut out when Virginia hosted William & Mary on Wednesday. (In fairness to the Tribe, it was their first fall ball date and the Cavaliers' last.) Jentis and Seats will provide a shot of speed to a midfield that lost do-it-all Julie Gardner (21g, 15gb, 12dc, 9ct). Virginia will need greater production from its midfielders as the attack finds its sea legs. Myers doesn't run midfield lines, but keeps up with the game's increasing pace by splitting one midfielder between an attacker and a defender as needed.

"The game is fast enough now that it's unrealistic to play a Julie Gardner and have her never come off the field. We're trying to develop for our five different middies. I would anticipate one middie off at a time. Maybe two, definitely not three," Myers said. "Putting pressure on the ball at the beginning of a clear really helps, and you give that up if you have lines coming in and out."

There are currently 18 midfielders on her roster but a few of those will migrate to attack or defense by the Cavaliers' season opener at Loyola on Feb. 16. However it shakes out, 2013 Virginia will look very different from 2012.

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