Ben Rubeor's sophomore season at the University of Virginia was hardly spectacular.
It was better than that, much better.
Firmly established as a starting attackmam after a rookie campaign in which he totaled a modest 34 points (18 goals, 16 assists) for the NCAA semifinalst Cavaliers, Rubeor became a mainstay in the nation's most versatile offense in 2006.
Buoyed by that offense and an array of talented longsticks, the 17-0 Cavaliers barely broke a sweat in a closing run that disposed of Maryland in the ACC title game, and Notre Dame, Georgetown, Syracuse and UMass in the NCAA tournament, by a combined 77-40.
Despite impressive scoring credentials (34 and 24), Rubeor's contributions went beyond goals and assists. His riding ability made it difficult for rival defenders to clear the ball when they could make a stop against the potent Wahoo offensive six. His shot selection and timing are impeccable.
Even though Rubeor's numbers and reputation merited postseason accolades (Second Team All-America) and special attention from enemy defenders, this season the junior will be a marked man. There won't be a Matt Ward, for instance, Kyle Dixon or Matt Poskay on which to focus.
That doesn't mean the Wahoos will be a one-man show. Garrett Billings and Danny Gladding will also be a cause for concern among rival defensive coordinators, yet Rubeor will have to be accounted for at all times.
That's why he is likely among the chosen few that will be considered for the prestigious 2007 Tewaarton Trophy, lacrosse's equivalent of the Heisman Trophy.
Ward was the 2006 Tewaaraton winner, and is now a budding superstar for the newly transplanted Washington Bayhawks in the National Lacrosse League.
Rubeor is on a similar track, although there will be plenty of roadblocks devised by rival defenses.
"Because he's a lefty, he might not always get the top guy," Virginia coach Dom Starsia said. "But he'll probably get the best righty."
Starsia says he's confident that Rubeor will handle the new paradigm like he's handled everything else in his career.
"Ben's a special player," he said. "When I first saw him play in high school (Loyola Blakefield), I could see he was outstanding."
In a sense, Rubeor is already ascending through the Cavs' pecking order at a rapid pace, considering he was just selected as a team tri-captain - a rare honor for a junior, or a "Third Year" player, in the parlance of The University.
"Ben and I have talked about it," Starsia said. "He's been thrust in a leadership role earlier than he expected. "And he's interested in developing his own leadership skills."
As a captain, Rubeor says he is willing to be more directly responsible to his teammates on the field.
"Last year, I drew the No. 3 guy a lot, and Danny had the No. 2 guy," Rubeor said. "With all of the guys who have graduated, there will be a lot of guys this year who will have to take on new roles, myself included."
He came dangerously close to never playing lacrosse again after being involved in a one-car accident in the summer between his junior and senior years of high school.
"I was speeding, and I took a turn too fast," he remembered. "I rolled the car and it came down on my arm."
Indeed, Rubeor is lucky to be able to tell the tale at all, considering the fate that could have befallen him.
As it was, he escaped with two broken bones in his forearm and the fear that his final campaign at Loyola would be wiped out.
He was in a cast from July to January, only to miraculously shed the encumbrance a week before practice began.
While he did not lead the Dons to a Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference title that year, he did win the C. Markland Kelly Award, which is given annually to the state's best schoolboy player, beating out, among others, Calvert Hall's Kevin Huntley, a starting attackman on the 2005 national champion Johns Hopkins Blue Jays.
"It was a bittersweet year for me in a lot of ways," Rubeor said."But I would have much rather won a championship (than the award)."
Rubeor considered Princeton and Georgetown before choosing to play for Starsia, who was a teammate of Bob Rubeor, Ben's dad, at Brown.
Nepotism, Starsia said, had nothing to do with his decision to recruit Rubeor.
"I have to apply the same standards to everyone, and that standard is, can you play?", Starsia said. "A guy could have a bazillion dollars or be my best friend, but his kid has to be able to play. But I can tell you this about Ben: I didn't have to look twice at him, because of his pedigree."
To understand just how seriously Starsia takes recruiting, his son, Joseph, is a midfielder at Division-III Lynchburg College, not UVa.
Rubeor is not only good enough. He's willing to put in the extra effort it takes to excel. He said work in the weight room has helped him add 20 pounds to a 5-foot-11 frame that was a modest 160 pounds when he arrived in Charlottesville.
"He's first in our running drills," Starsia said about the package of 10 200- yard sprints the Cavs run. "He wouldn't be the first guy in the 60, or the 100, but the 200 is a question of willpower, and that's where Ben carries the day."
To put it mildly, Starsia is a big fan.
"I don't take the Ben Rubeors of the world for granted," he said. "He stood out even on a team with Matt Ward and Kyle Dixon, so you know Ben's special."
We'll see how special as the 2007 season unfolds, but Ben Rubeor is the first college player of 2007 to be placed on the E-Lacrosse Tewaaraton Watch List.