While conducting interviews to collect information for a feature on Maryland senior defenseman Joe Cinosky (expected to be published in the print edition Friday), Virginia coach Dom Starsia graciously gave me a few minutes of his time.
His second-seeded Cavaliers -- who will meet the seventh-seeded Terps in a NCAA tournament quarterfinal on Saturday at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis -- survived an upset bid by UMBC on Sunday, and Starsia was well aware of how fortunate his team was to win, 10-9.
"When I was standing on the sidelines and it was 9-9 with five minutes to play, I was wishing for a breather," he said. "But having the luxury to look back on it, I think it was the best experience for us.
"I think we benefited a great deal from having been pushed to the limit the way that UMBC pushed us on Sunday," Starsia continued. "I think it kind of gets us back to game speed, it gets us back to team speed and back into the mindset of what's absolutely required to win games at this level and at this time of the year."
Starsia was pleased to see the productivity of his starting attack of senior Ben Rubeor and juniors Garrett Billings and Danny Glading. That trio scored nine of the team's 10 goals against UMBC, and Sunday was the first time the three players were healthy. (Rubeor has dealt with a knee injury, Billings a back injury and Glading a hamstring.)
"We ask a lot of those guys and put a lot of responsibility on their shoulders," Starsia said of his attack. "They're good kids and good players, and we expect them to respond in big moments. The question that might be better asked is what happened to our midfield. We expect a step-up there at the same time."
Saturday's meeting will be the third this season between the Cavaliers and Maryland. The Terps won the first contest, 13-7, on March 29, but Virginia got the equalizer in the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament, winning 11-8. How difficult will it be to beat a rival that seemingly knows your schemes and systems for a second time in one season?
"You just don't have the luxury of worrying about that," Starsia said. "One of us is going to have to do that. ... We're going to have to play our best game and deal with the hand that we've been dealt, and that's trying to beat Maryland for a second time."