|Dom Starsia sat down with E-Lacrosse's Peter Lund in early April of 1999 and then again after Virginia's NCAA Championship run. The New England born Brown University graduate, who still plays the game, discusses everything from latest activities of the rules committee to the best pizza in Charlottesville.|
E-Lacrosse: Your full name is Dominic?
Starsia: My full name is Dominic. I often introduce myself that way because, if I say "Dom", invariably I get back "Tom" or "Don". In deference to my father, I actually was "Little Dom" until I left for college.
E-Lacrosse: So when did you start playing lacrosse, and how did you get into it?
Starsia: I went to Brown University in the fall of 1970. I grew up on Long Island, son of a New York City cop. I'd heard of lacrosse growing up on Long Island, but I had never seen it. I went to college to play football. I was a football recruit; captain of the freshman football team at Brown. I got talked into playing lacrosse by a buddy on the football team. In those days you had to play on freshman teams in all sports. I started playing lacrosse in the spring of 1971, and just fell in love with the game from the first time I picked up a stick. It was just one of those things, you know. It sounds almost too fairy-tailish to be true, but I just picked up a stick and never put it down. I played a couple more years of football, but I was really thinking in terms of lacrosse after that. I graduated in 1974. The lacrosse coach at Brown was also the head soccer coach. After my senior year, the assistant lacrosse coach got a job as the head lacrosse coach at Harvard, and so the head coach asked me to come back and be his assistant. And so I became the assistant in soccer and lacrosse. I had never kicked a soccer ball until the first day I was coaching soccer. That first fall in 1974, we actually went to two final fours, in my first three falls. You know, I didn't know anything about it and I thought I must be a pretty good coach, an assistant coach on one of the best teams in the country, but that was fun. And I coached soccer for fifteen years at Brown. I was the assistant for eight years before becoming the head coach in 1983.
E-Lacrosse: Who was that head coach at Brown?
Starsia: Coach Stevenson, a long time coach at Brown, in soccer and lacrosse.
E-Lacrosse: Speaking of the freshman teams, how do you think lacrosse has been effected by freshman elegibility? If we didn't have freshman elegibility, do you think that would change anything?
Starsia: No, because I think it would be a relatively even playing field, but what that developed was budgets being tightened. It actually created less playing opportunities at the college level. Now everybody just has one team. So, there are just less spots for kids to play college lacrosse. I think competitively, among the college teams, it would have an equal effect on everybody. I could tell you that when I was a freshman playing freshman lacrosse, I think it really helped me too. You know, being in a freshman environment with the other best freshman players, not being thrown into it the varsity, as a kid who had no experience in the game, it really was probably the key thing that allowed me to develop into a lacrosse player. You know the kids who come now into our sport are pretty good students and come from pretty good backgrounds academically. They can handle being on the varsity and doing the schoolwork. They talk about that adjustment in basketball for kids, that there's too much pressure on basketball. I can understand that, but in our sport, I think the boys can handle it. I just wish that… it seems that the game is growing at the high school level so quickly, and yet the number of opportunities at the college level not only hasn't increased, but it may have actually reduced over the last ten or fifteen years.
E-Lacrosse: How did you move into a head coaching position?
Starsia: I was the assistant coach in soccer and lacrosse. About six or seven years after I started coaching I was offered a head lacrosse coaching job at Yale. They also wanted me to be an assistant football coach, and I was flattered that they thought I could coach football, after having been away from it for a fair number of years. Football was one of the leading programs in the Ivy league at the time, but I really didn't want to coach football. I was at a camp the week that all that was going on. Dick Garber, the former coach at UMass, who was a great friend, could see that I had reservations about it. He was the one who said to me, "well, just don't take it", which would have never occurred to me on my own, 'cause at that point in your life you're thinking I'm taking this job. It was a raise in pay and I was going to be a head coach. But he said "Just don't do it now. You're good doing just what you're doing and something else will happen. You'll get a different kind of opportunity. One that suits you better". And so very reluctantly I turned the job down. The very next year the athletic director at Brown, John Perry, who is now the Athletic Director at Butler, created the position at Brown for me. The Head Lacrosse Coach, who had been there for a long time decided to just coach soccer, and I became the head lacrosse coach at Brown in 1983.
E-Lacrosse: Who were your coaching influences?
Starsia: Certainly, Cliff Stevenson, who I played for and coached with in my early years at Brown. Dick Garber was the long time coach at Umass. He was a real gentleman and I really admired him. I just really admired Richie Moran's Cornell team, and how they played the game. Those people were my early influences.
E-Lacrosse: How'd you end up replacing Ace Adams?
Starsia: I'd been at Brown for ten years, I was very comfortable there. I had been a Brown graduate. My wife was a Brown graduate. We had lots of friends and family there. When Jim retired, I was contacted by Virginia about looking at the job, there was such an outstanding pool of candidates that I never really, I didn't think too much about it, even though I was happy to talk about it. Also, there were a number of things that came into play. I had just had my fortieth birthday and you know I don't think I was in a mid-life crisis, but I felt like I was young enough to start out on another adventure. I had a complicated family situation with the kids and educations and it was not going to be an easy thing. When I talked to the Virginia people I said to them the decision wasn't going to be made on finances or anything. It was going to be on whether it was a good move for my family. I had heard that Charlottesville was a good place to raise a family. We became more interested in the job as we looked at it, and when they brought us down to visit, they asked my wife to come down too, and they did a good job selling her on it. So when we were offered the position, we decided to jump on it.
E-Lacrosse: This was what year?
Starsia: This would have been spring of '92
E-Lacrosse: Was it a hard transition starting out here?
Starsia: No, I mean it was definitely different. It's a different kind of athletic department. You walk into the first meeting with a group of young men that you really don't know at all. I had talked to some of them in the recruiting. You're moving your family and like I said I have a complicated situation with the kids, but the people here in Virginia made the transition easier. They couldn't have been any nicer to us. The players were anxious to get to work and so while we had some adjustments to make in those early years. I have enjoyed just about every minute of being here.
E-Lacrosse: How'd you start out in terms of your success? How were your first couple of teams here at Virginia?
Starsia: The first team, that would have been the '93 team, I was actually a little bit surprised, when we got here, that we weren't more talented. My view of Virginia would have been the same as everybody else's. We always get categorized as talented no matter what and when I got here, frankly, the Brown teams that I left in '91 and '92 were more talented than the Virginia team that I found when I first got here. But that first group worked hard and we hadn't been in the playoffs. They had a losing season the year before. But we ended up having a good season. We defeated an undefeated, number one in the country, North Carolina team in overtime that year, got to the playoffs and beat Notre Dame in the first round. We made a good run at Hopkins in the second round but didn't win in the quarterfinals. I'd felt we had a good season. The second year, we were a little bit more experienced, we had our first group of freshman on that team. Doug Knight was a freshman that year, and that team was a sort of work in progress throughout the season. We made a terrific run in the playoffs. We wound up beating Notre Dame at home, Carolina on the road and Syracuse in the NCAA semi-finals. The final was one of the most exciting games that I have ever been a part of, to take Princeton into overtime, so that was probably a team that surpassed all of our expectations. We made a great run in May. We were getting to work, getting to know each other and we were making some progress as a team, as a program.
E-Lacrosse: You still play the game and you participated in the World Games. How was that experience? What is your current involvement as a player?
Starsia: That was one of the most pleasant long weekends of my recent past. I was blessed to have my son with me throughout the weekend. He was playing in the junior games and I was playing in the Masters' games. And we had a bunch of Virginia guys playing in the World Games: Chris Sanderson (Canada), Michael Watson (USA), Greg Traynor (USA), David Curry (USA) and Darren Lowe (USA) is a former Brown player of mine. That was really neat. My playing was, well just calling it playing is a generous description but it was fun to be a part of it.
E-Lacrosse: Which team did you play for?
Starsia: The Iroquois Natoinals. My roomate in college, David White, is a Mohawk Indian, and I played with the Iroquois at a summer tournament up in Lake Placid for about half of the last ten years and the Iroquois often called me because they needed a defenseman to play in these different tournaments. I am happy to do it.
E-Lacrosse: You were the only team to beat Princeton for a few years, with the exception of two championship games. Is there a secret to beating them?
Starsia: I don't know exactly what the secret is, but I would say that…I was talking to a reporter after the game this year and I think one of the keys to our beating Princeton the last couple of years has been to get a lead early in the game. I don't think that Princeton necessarily wants to be chasing you around defensively, so you put them into a defensive mode. Offensively, they have always been a patient lacrosse team but when you're behind, it's a little harder to want to do that. So it's ironic that the games we have beaten them were 9-7 last year, 6-4 this year. Our reputation is more of a high scoring, up and down the field team and the games we have beaten them have been low scores. I've been pleased to win in those situations; games like that. We always have a great deal of respect for Princeton so we always feel well prepared. The only secret is to get a lead early in the game, I think that really helped us.
E-Lacrosse: How do those wins compare to the two losses in the championship games? Were you unable to get an early lead?
Starsia: The championship games both went back and forth score-wise, and it was close. I don't remember ever being ahead or behind by a lot early in the game, but in both games, as I recall, we wound up behind in the fourth quarter by three goals. And in both games it was very satisfying for us to come back. In the '96 game where we were three goals down and came back to send the game into overtime. I thought we battled hard. It's funny that the games [won by Princeton] were a little bit higher scoring, and we wound up chasing them around late in the game to be able to get back into the games.
E-Lacrosse: Speaking of Princeton, do you think they can still be in the hunt for the national title in May after starting the season 0-3?
Starsia: I think they can be. They are a very young offensive lacrosse team and are very much a work in progress offensively. I think that there are probably 8-10 teams that have a shot at this thing. The only thing that has been defining so far this season has been Loyola's win over Hopkins. Everything else is still to be determined, so I think this season still has a lot of lacrosse to be played and I think there are many teams that will look different to me than they do right now.
E-Lacrosse: How do the Cavaliers look this year? How are your chances to win the big one?
Starsia: We had a very difficult early season schedule. Three of our first four Saturdays were at Syracuse and Princeton and at Hopkins this Saturday. I think we are a young lacrosse team and we still have a little bit of work to do. The early season schedule scared me a lot but I think we are getting better. We need our leaders to continue to emerge and continue to score goals. Even through our early season, our ability to capitalize on offensive opportunities has been a little bit up and down, and so we need to continue to do that especially as we play the top teams and the top goalies. We have been very good on the defensive side of the field and hopefully we will continue to do that as we develop.
E-Lacrosse: How is your "best freshman class" developing with guys like Conor Gill and Nick Russo?
Starsia: I think our freshman class has probably exceeded expectations a little bit to date. Where I have often said that your two key positions are the attack and in the goal, you know we have Connor Gill at one end and Derek Kenney, the freshman in the goal at the other end. They have both played very well. Mark Koontz on defense was our fourth guy early. We had an injury, and he has been starting the last couple of games and playing very well defensively. And Brenndan Mohler and Nick Russo in the midfield. Brendan has played a key role in the midfield for us, and Nick Russo is really starting to come on. I think we have been more than happy with the development of our freshman play and poise to date.
Conor Gill and Doyle Smith
E-Lacrosse: Who are the top 5 teams in the country other than Virginia right now?
Starsia: Syracuse, Duke, Loyola, Hopkins, Maryland, Georgetown.
E-Lacrosse: Cant decide between MD and GU?
Starsia: Can't decide between them right now.
E-Lacrosse: Among Division I coaches, who are your closest friends? Do you exchange ideas with any of them?
Starsia: I talk with a lot of the people I worked with before, like Peter Lasagna at Brown and Mark Van Arsdale at Penn, both of whom are my former assistants. Mike Pressler at Duke and Bill Tierney at Princeton, we've all known each other a long time, Dave Cottle at Loyola, are all people I consider myself close to.
E-Lacrosse: Who do you think are the up-and-coming programs in Division I that will make an impact in the future?
Starsia: There are different levels of 'jumping.' I think Georgetown is at the next step. They are jumping from playoff team to national championship contender. That's a different step for Georgetown. At the other end, a program like Ohio State, with the support they have gotten, is one you'll hear a lot more from. Another rising program is Denver. Jamie Munro, who played for me at Brown, is going to do a nice job out at Denver, now that they have some scholarships in the program. Jamie is tireless, I think you're going to see some things happen out at Denver. It'll be interesting to see the effect that automatic qualifiers have on teams. Does it eliminate the second-place team in some conferences? Does it create a hardship in the Ivy League, because their champion will go, but with fewer at-large spots available the second place team may not go. In some years, the Ivy League or the ACC have had four teams in the tournament. Now, this would be less likely to happen. Right now there are healthy developments going on in the game at places like Ohio State and Dartmouth with Ricky Sowell.
E-Lacrosse: How do you recruit a player for the ACC?
Starsia: It's the most physical lacrosse in the country when the ACC players are playing against each other. I sit with some of the ACC coaches when we watch high school games to recruit kids. You look at a boy and say, "He's an ACC kid," or "He's not." You must be a rugged, tough athlete to play in these games. Last year, we had to play Duke in the regular season, then play them six days later in the first round of the ACC tournament, then Maryland, a day later, in the finals of the ACC tournament. We played Duke, Duke, and Maryland in a period of eight days. Winning two out of three and still standing after this tough stretch was a feat in itself.
E-Lacrosse: Many football schools are known as "Quarterback U" for the excellent players they have at that position. With the recent success of Doug Knight, Tim Whiteley, and Michael Watson, and the current superstars Tucker Radebaugh, Drew McKnight, and promising freshman Conor Gill, Virginia could be known as "Attack U." Do you concentrate on attackmen in your coaching and recruiting?
Starsia: Certainly that is related to my philosophy in recruiting, which goes back to a gentleman I played for in college, Cliff Stevenson. He told me you always had to have great attackmen in order to be a good offensive lacrosse team. Our priority in recruiting has always been to find attackmen and goalies and then to look for athletes. I have always felt that if you have a great attack and at least efficient midfielders, you can be a very good offensive lacrosse team. The inverse is not necessarily the case. So we have always looked for those kids. We put a lot of responsibility on our attack's shoulders for what we do offensively and we have always looked for good people and outstanding players to fill those roles for us. A lot of those players who excel at Virginia at attack or other positions came from St. Paul's in Baltimore, including Conor Gill and others. Does UVA have a special relationship with that school that allows you to attract their best players? St. Paul's and Virginia have had a relationship for a number of years. Before I even got here, there were plenty of St. Paul's graduates that went to Vierginia. and had a good career and a good experience. Recently, we had Timmy Whitely, Michael Watson and Tucker Radebaugh. If you are a young kid growing up, those are your high school heroes. They come to Virginia and they have good college careers and I think that certainly has lent itslef to the other St. Paul's kids choosing Virginia as a college option. Those guys worked well for us so at the very least it helps us keep our foot in that door to attract the St. Paul's kids.
E-Lacrosse: What kind of a kid are you looking for when you're recruiting? Is it just talent where you need it? At Virginia they have a strict honor code and you need good grades. How do you go through the process?
Starsia: I'll tell you the way the [we do it] is to identify the best players first. Who are the best players out there in the country? Because we can do that in the spring of their Junior years. W don't really know what those grades are going to be like until that semester is over so in the spring of their Junior year we try to figure out who are the best players. Then as the summer comes and we can begin to contact people starting July 1, we begin to get information academically. So we could have a list of the twenty five best players in the country, and that list will be narrowed to eighteen or nineteen after we get completed Junior year transcripts, and we begin to get to know kids a little bit. At Virginia we probably do have the luxury of recruiting specifically in some cases. You know, do we need a face-off guy or do we need a left handed player in a position? But essentially we are looking for good athletes that are solid students, and exemplary citizens. That's our charge here at Virginia.
E-Lacrosse: Comment on the recent increase of lacrosse talent in Virginia high schools.
Starsia: A wonderful development in the state of Virginia is that now we have over half of our public schools playing the sport of lacrosse and we had our first federated state championship two years ago. The level of playing in general has, I would say, improved dramatically. It does not mean necessarily that there is an increase in the number of top Division I candidates in the state but there are always a couple of them. Michael Hammer is a great player from Robinson HS (DC metro) that was recruited by all of the top schools. He is going to go to Georgetown, but with the level of talent improving we (as a state) will produce more and more of those top candidates. It's good for me and for the University of Virginia.
E-Lacrosse: What do you think about lacrosse on the internet.
Starsia: I think the internet in general has been a positive development in the lives of all, you know. All humanity. I'm a person that feels like more information is better than less. I am concerned with all the access that people have to the internet. I'm concerned that people that have an ax to grind and, or are not completely knowledgeable can put things on the internet that are available for everybody. I don't look at it on a regular basis, but there have been some viciously wicked things on the internet on chat lines and discussion groups and things like that and that concerns me a great deal. I feel like as a coach, I've got enough pressure in my life without having to explain to my family why some guy thinks I'm a creep or something, you know. So, it doesn't help me at all, but that stuff is out there now, so, I think that its just going to be a part of our life. Right now there is no turning back on the internet. Learn how to use it, use it to your advantage, and for me and for all of us, you just can't worry about everything that appears on it.
E-Lacrosse: Klockner Stadium, though built originally for soccer, is the perfect lacrosse venue for its size and field. How much does your home field advantage help with the loud noise of the fans stomping on the aluminum bleachers?
Starsia: It's the best soccer and lacrosse stadium in the country. Aesthetically pleasing; its a very comfortable place to watch a game; the finest grass playing surface in the country for college lacrosse. Its just a great venue. It holds about 8,500 and with the vertical stands people are close to the field and feel a part of the action. It opened my first year here, so it may have appeared as if it was opened for me. It wasn't, but I have been blessed to be able to take advantage of it.
E-Lacrosse: Klockner is always loud with all the fans stomping on the aluminum bleachers. Do you think that this gives your team an advantage? Is it difficult sometimes to hear your players and vice versa?
Starsia: It gets loud. It's a little bit difficult sometimes, especially when the band is there and we have them for most of our home games. But it's a problem we are glad to have, it means that we get good crowds and people are enthusiastic.
E-Lacrosse: Do you think Virginia should host the final four or the NCAA playoffs?
Starsia: It is really important that our championship do well at the gate, you know. The NCAA does look at the bottom line, and our sport is one of the few that does produce revenue from the championship. Its one of the things that allows us to have twelve teams in our field, when proportionally we should have less according to the NCAA formula for representation. It's important that we continue to do well. So it's hard for the NCAA committee that makes the decision on the site of the game to take risks. When we were in the dome last time, in, um, '91, Syracuse isn't in the final, its inside, and we have nine thousand. We really can't afford to do that again. So I don't think you're going to see the final four, for a while yet, out of the Rutgers-to-College Park corridor. I do think you're going to see the committee look closely at playing around with the earlier rounds, the first rounds and the Quarterfinals. I think there is a fair chance, in my observation, that in the next couple of years you could see playoff games in Columbus, Ohio. They were going to be up at Brown this year and New England , and places like that, I think the committtee is very open to trying some different things with those earlier games.
At Virginia, the problem that we have is that that the second round weekend is our graduation weekend, so it is really hard to do anything here in town. We're only a college town and you get something like graduation, and we can't accommodate everybody. We've been asked to consider hosting games in the playoffs. We could use Scott Stadium for the Quarterfinals, but it would be difficult.
E-Lacrosse: Any possibility of Virginia maybe hosting the final four.
Starsia: Virginia is the next link down from college park, you know. I think that makes some sense and I'm not going to say that it would be in the next couple of years but in the long range that that's a possibility. People talk about the Meadowlands, people talk about Foxboro. You know, I think those kinds [of venues] are real things to think about.
E-Lacrosse: I think, I think it should stay on a college campus
Starsia: Yeah. It's easier for the NCAA committee to choose a college campus because a school has a stake in the success of it and it has probably had some history in running it. It is answerable to the NCAA on so many other levels that they know they will be accountable not to screw it up. I guess that is one of the reasons why it hasn't gotten to those non-college sites like the Meadowlands and Foxboro.
E-Lacrosse: If its someplace big like the meadowlands or something and you don't fill it then it looks bad and you have a lot of empty seats.
Starsia: I agree with that. I think the most important number for us is how many people are in those seats, you know. I think a stadium that seats 40,000, you know is the perfect venue for lacrosse, we don't need a stadium that seats 75,000 right now, but a stadium that seats 40,000 looks great and accommodates what our maximum crowd is likely to be. But the most important thing for our sport is that the championships continue to draw well and continue to make a positive statement at the gate to the NCAA. The NCAA is looking at the sport of men's lacrosse and saying we don't understand how that sport works, but we like the fact that they do well, and were going to let them continue to do that and operate the way that they do. There has been some sense, as opposed to increasing the size of the field [of teams in the playeoffs], in decreasing the size of the field. The NCAA is saying men's lacrosse shouldn't have as many people as we do but they they like our revenue at the end. I think that they give us some more time, maybe, because we're able to keep our championship healthy.
E-Lacrosse: What's the best home cooking restaurant between DC and Charlottesville on Route 29?
Starsia: A little Italian place called Casella's. Best pizza in town and a good spaghetti dish. For an Italian from New York, it took a while to find it, but it's perfect.
E-Lacrosse: The Views Driving into Virginia are some of Virginia's best. Is the best of both worlds coaching big time lacrosse while still being able to enjoy a small town?
Starsia: This a neat area and it's fun being a part of a state university even though we are an elite academic institution. We are the state university in the state of Virginia and so people mobilize and support us.
E-Lacrosse: Tell us about your involvement in the NCAA rules committee and the executive committee.
Starsia: There are actually two committees there. The NCAA rules committee, chaired by Dave Urick, is a committee whose charge it is to survey and talk to coaches every year and come up with recommendations for rule changes. I serve on the NCAA executive committee. Our job is to make the rules for the game and run the NCAA tournament. So we will take the recommendations of the Rules Committee and decide whether we want to implement them in actual rule changes for the following season. So, I can make recommendations to Dave Urick, the same as any other coach could, but then I sit on the Executive Committee that actually makes those changes.
E-Lacrosse: How heavy was the debate over the dive rule?
Starsia: There was a lot of debate over it. I think that a lot is involved there. It was a very personal issue for me because of the careers of Michael Watson and Doug Knight. They probably dove more than anybody in the country. I think Doug never made contact with a goalie once that I can recall when he dove into the crease. He always dove up and out and away. He may have landed in the crease sometimes. He did land in the crease a lot, but never went straight at the cage. After Doug graduated, some people of lesser ability and just with the changes in tactics, guys were taking much more direct routes to the goal. They were going right down the goal line extended, you know, headed straight for the pipe, or straight to the goalie and we had much more violent collisions last year than we had previously. And the thing was that coaches were teaching the technique for goalies to step off the pipe and confront that dodger at the crease line to initiate contact, and get the interference called before the ball went in. So we had goalies stepping off. We had kids taking very severe angles to the cage and goalies coming out to confront those guys at the crease line. So you were putting referees in a position that was almost impossible for them to call. It's impossible to be able to watch everything that was going on there; whether or not the boy stepped in the crease; and whether or not there was contact before the ball went in the goal. We felt we need to make an adjustment. So subsequently the dive hasn't been eliminated, but you just can't land in the crease right now. But there is certainly much less diving going on.
E-Lacrosse: I guess you won't be able to see such amazing moves like a Doug Knight dive, you know, an Air Gait. Do you think that will have an effect on the fan interest or anything?
Starsia: No, I don't think so. I think that, you know before Doug and Michael, there wasn't a lot of diving, you know the Air Gait. Gary may have been the only player that was capable of doing that in our lifetime. We have all thought we would try it.
E-Lacrosse: I can't get it
Starsia: Yeah. Exactly. I thought the dive was also an exciting play, but we also needed it to be called correctly, and that was hard to do. There was less diving I think before Doug and Michael came around, so you know, I think good players will think of something else, and we'll have another issue in a year or so. It has not completely eliminated diving, you can still dive and, you know, in our rules video there were a number of dives, and goals scored that were legal dives with boys landing outside the crease, but that is certainly an adjustment the boys have to make.
It will be reviewed and, uh, could it be changed? Yeah it could be changed but I don't think you'll get a recommendation from the coaches to change the rule. I think its more of a spectators kind of thing. I think if you came to ask the coaches right now, and the referees, I think you'll find most people are happier with the new rule.
E-Lacrosse: Its still legal if you land outside of the crease? Starsia: Yes.
E-Lacrosse: Is this slated for review after this season?
Starsia: Everything is slated for review, I think with a rule like this, there is a lot of discussion about it.
E-Lacrosse: I'm sure the referees are
E-Lacrosse: It makes their job easier
Starsia: Exactly. I'm sure it will be talked about at our next executive meeting.
E-Lacrosse: Have you noticed any effect on it so far with the low scoring, the inside rolls?
Starsia: There was an inside role before the dive. I think that players have had to re-adjust, you know, retool that dodge a little bit. With the dive you could inside roll much closer to the crease and much lower and much closer to the goal line extended. Now you're teaching your attackmen to come much up higher on their dodge before they initially start to turn, whether its a turn or a roll and shoot. So that's been an adjustment. I can't imagine why it would have an effect in feeding at all or even scoring in games. I wouldn't tell you I have noticed particularly that games are more low scoring, but certainly that slam bang action around the crease has been reduced.
E-Lacrosse: Do you think its effecting you more adversely with the dive reputation of Virginia with Drew McKnight and Jay Jalbert?
Starsia: Our players have had to make an adjustment like everybody else has. You know, I think in Jay Jalbert, Drew McKnight and Ian Shure, we had three players for whom that move was a regular part of their offensive repertoire. They have had to learn to come up higher before they can start a move. In most cases I would think it has been a good adjustment for those guys. We work harder initially to get in a better position, to create a good offensive opportunity. So, I would say that to date, anyway, as a coach and a strategist, it has been a good development for us, the rule change.
E-Lacrosse: Let's follow up on the dive or any new rules issues. Did this year's meeting occur. Was there a review of the dive again?
Starsia: Every coach I spoke with going into the NCAA meetings preferred the 1999 dive rule....it was a nearly impossible play to officiate correctly beforehand and it is hard to argue against requiring a legal play to decide an important game....the NCAA Committee did talk about it, however, and I am sure we will continue to do so.
Two areas that the committee spent a lot of time with were the application of automatic qualification to tournament play and how the sticks may be changing the game. You are going to see a dramatically different tournament in Division III with the introduction of AQ's in 2000. It is the national NCAA wave for all sports at the D3 level but, I am certainly not sure it is the best thing for men's lacrosse. At the DI level, if it happens in its present form, it will be the most significant change in our tournament since the introduction of the Final Four. Keep your eye open for information here in the early fall. With the sticks....there is concern that the balls just don't come out of them anymore...that the designs are so radical and the players so much stronger that you literally have to mug an attackman now in order to stop him....we have asked the manufacturers to help us with this issue.
E-Lacrosse: Against Delaware, you had to come back, you demolished Hopkins and then held off a big Syracuse comeback. It must have been a pretty emotional ride.
Starsia: The Delaware game went much as we anticipated and hoped because of the bye. We fall behind early, claw back into it by halftime and wear them down over four quarters. Our face-off guys, Jason Hard and David Jenkins were tremendous, and I thought we had a chance to contain John Grant because Ryan Curtis responds to a challenge so aggressively.
The early nine goal run in the Hopkins game never gave me very much comfort. It was way too early to decide the game was over.
The two best moments of the weekend play were, clearly, the final whistle on Monday which ended 27 years of frustration for Virginia Lacrosse and our players handing the championship trophy to Doyle Smith on that field. Once in a while in life, things work out just the way they are supposed to and after all that Doyle has done for Virginia and for lacrosse, it was great that he could share that with us.
E-Lacrosse: Did the school go nuts. What has it been like since?
Starsia: There were 72 messages on my E-Mail when I walked in the office on Tuesday morning.....we have received over 300 cards, letters and messages since the Championship....Terry Holland, our athletic director, told me that he has never seen such an overwhelmingly positive response to any athletic result....hearing from so many Virginia people and so many old Brown friends has made it all even more worthwhile.
E-Lacrosse: Was it special to have Doug Knight as an assistant for this year when winning it all?
Starsia: There are people who cross all of our paths in our lifetimes who just touch us in a special way. For me, Doug Knight is one of those young men. His modesty, his honesty, his courage, the way he cares about people, just very endearing....the frustration of not winning the championship, for me, was related to not winning it while Doug was here as a player. One of the great joys this spring was having Doug on the staff as we finally got this done. I am very pleased that he was a part of this.
John Desko congratulates Starsia
E-Lacrosse: How much did you personally want a championship?
Starsia: The championship does not validate my career. There have been so many wonderful people, experiences and contests along the way that truly provide the essence of joy in coaching. One game does not make all of that more or less valuable. However, I also understand that this single event, that has brought so much happiness to the people I care about, is not without meaning. We compete, we keep score....winning is better than losing!
E-Lacrosse: What's the future look like with an MVP freshman and national championship momentum on recruiting? Who's coming in this year and who do you lose?
Starsia: I would think that we will be ranked as one of the leading contenders in the 2000 pre-season. We did graduate Tucker Radebaugh but we return our other three All-Americans...we have some strength, on paper. However we did have a great group of seniors who were, clearly, the subtle strength of this '99 team. We are going to miss them much more than people think. Coming back from the championship, graduating such quality depth...we will have our work cut out for us in 2000. This is a challenge, certainly, that we welcome. Overall, our freshmen class is athletic and should provide some help- the player we are very interested to see this fall is A.J. Shannon from Whitby, Ontario. Probably a little gamble in the recruiting but, hopefully, a big upside also.
The recruiting will not change much because of the championship...we could almost always "get in someone's front door" but, final decisions with the top candidates are often related to scholarship levels and, unfortunately, the NCAA has not awarded us more scholarships because of the championship.
The UVA Lacrosse Website
The 1999 NCAA Championship Story
1999 Championship video!
Peter Viehe-Naess contributed to this Interview
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