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Scoring ugly is Knight's trademark

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Image is nothing.

That would be the catch phrase if Virginia did an ad campaign promoting Doug Knight. He runs bowlegged, and there are times when a flaw in his vision forces him to tilt his head at an odd " angle. He doesn't wear socks, and his left-handed stickwork appears primitive compared with that of the Cavaliers' other attackmen.

It's hardly the picture of the top goal-getter in Division I lacrosse, but Knight's version of substance over style has netted 51 goals this spring. It's a school-record total that figures to grow Saturday, when the second-seeded Cavaliers meet Syracuse in the semifinals of the NCAA tournament at Byrd Stadium in College Park.

"Doug's a little unorthodox," Virginia coach Dom Starsia said. "He doesn't have classic lacrosse skills, or the lacrosse pedigree, but he's a great athlete and the ultimate gamer. The only problem he has is keeping interested in games that get out of hand. He has 51 goals, but he could have 151."

Knight should be forgiven if his mind wanders when Virginia puts the hurt on lesser competition, because the sophomore from Katonah, N.Y., needs new challenges.

The seasons changed at the Westminster School in Simsbury, )) Conn., but one constant was Knight's scoring goals, even though the muscles in his right eye were weaker than those in the left. Operations at age 5 and three years ago were unable to correct the problem.

"When the ball is far away, I'm fine," Knight said. "When it's close, ground balls get fuzzy."

Nonetheless, Knight was an all-state selection in soccer and a standout forward in New England's premier prep ice hockey league. In the summer, he split time between those sports. It was only for a few weeks in the spring that Knight concentrated on lacrosse.

Knight contemplated Division III colleges in New England, where he could play all three sports, or the Ivy League, where he could split time between soccer and lacrosse, but those notions were discarded after he met Starsia in 1992.

Then the coach at Brown, Starsia was at Westminster recruiting defenseman Dennis Fitzgibbons, but he marveled at the relentless junior at the other end of the field. Starsia's interest led Knight to take lacrosse more seriously and was the reason Knight was part of Starsia's first class of Cavaliers recruits.

"I was the one guy among the big boys who jumped on him," Starsia said. "Frankly, he stuck his neck out when he came here. We got some very good players in that class, and when I mentioned Doug Knight after Michael Watson, everyone said Doug who?"

As a freshman, Knight won over some fans, as he sent a semifinal against Syracuse and the championship game against Princeton into overtime. In last week's quarterfinal win over Brown, he ran off four goals in 14 minutes to pull away from a 10-10 tie. It was typical Knight, confidence in clutch situations.

"When I came here, I mentioned that I would like to play both soccer and lacrosse," Knight said. "I was told I was crazy. Someone said, 'Unless you're the next Pele and Paul Gait all in one, forget it,' but I still think it can be done. I don't have the time to try it, but I think I could do it."

Virginia is among a handful of elite lacrosse programs, but it is a dynasty in soccer, having won the past four NCAA titles.

Instead of dividing his attention with soccer, Knight plays catch-and-shoot with a pair of St. Paul's School graduates who were Atlantic Coast Conference Rookies of the Year. Junior Tim Whiteley is second on the team in points, with 19 goals and 41 assists. Watson has 27 and 21, respectively, and Knight said their reputations have padded his totals.

"Those two guys are incredible," Knight said. "They've taught me so much, and drawn so much attention. I'm shooting pretty well [48.5 percent] because I get the ball in such good position."

On a team with a rebuilt defense that needs leadership from its attack, that's what Starsia wants to hear.

"All attackmen count their points, but I don't think that's a problem here," Starsia said. "Doug will be the first to tell you he's gone crazy scoring goals because of all the attention that's paid the other two. I would dare someone not to put their best defenseman on Watson."

Knight isn't as slick as his teammates, but he adds grit to the Virginia mix. If he loses the ball, he works until he gets it back.

"My attitude came from my dad," Knight said. "He coached me as a kid, and he's a real intense guy. He always worried about the end result, and that rubbed off on me."

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