Virginia’s 8-0 start has cemented the reigning national champion’s perch atop the rankings in every poll. But there is an undercurrent of concern about the team’s slow starts in games this season.

The Cavaliers trailed at halftime against Drexel and No. 7 Syracuse, were tied at intermission with No. 3 Cornell, and found themselves in a 6-1 hole after the first quarter against Ohio State.

Virginia rallied in each of those contests and emerged with victories, but coach Dom Starsia conceded that the team must get out of the gates faster, especially with No. 2 Johns Hopkins visiting Charlottesville, Va., on Saturday.

“People always talk about wanting to play well at the end of the game, and of course we do. But I also talk about how we also want to play well at the beginning of the game,” he said. “It doesn’t mean that you’re out of the game if you start out slowly, and sometimes it serves to get your attention. But I would rather that we play well for 60 minutes and in games like the one we have coming up, it’s going to be more critical for us.”

In the Blue Jays, the Cavaliers meet a team that has dominated opponents in the first three quarters, outscoring them, 59-22. But Johns Hopkins hasn’t been as impressive in the fourth quarter as opposing offenses have scored 15 goals to the Blue Jays’ 14.

It’s been a topic that Johns Hopkins coach Dave Pietramala has discussed frequently, but Starsia said he doesn’t think the Blue Jays have been crippled in fourth quarters.

“[W]e’re only eight games into the 2012 season, and I wouldn’t go too far in terms of reading too much into Hopkins’ struggles late and not too much into our struggles early,” Starsia said. “I think these are things that good teams just work through and there are different reasons why these things happen. Certainly, if we’re going into the fourth quarter and it’s a close game and we find ourselves a little bit behind come Saturday, I don’t think we’ll lose any poise or discipline. I think we’d be fairly confident that we could still make a run at this thing. And I don’t think that Hopkins’ sense of it is that the bottom is falling out just because the fourth quarter has started. I think they’re still trying to figure out who they are, and so are we and trying to put a complete game together.”