A players’ coach
By Whitey Reid
Published: November 9, 2009
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As the story goes, it was during the first exhibition game of the 1999-2000 basketball season, when Tony Bennett showed his true colors. At the time, Bennett was working as a manager for his father, Dick, then the head coach at Wisconsin.
Tony, who had finished his playing career and was just getting his feet wet in the coaching business, was sitting on the bench next to Wisconsin players when a fellow manager handed him a cup of “BadgerMAX,” Wisconsin’s version of Gatorade.
Instead of passing the drink on to the players, as his managerial duties required, Tony guzzled it down without a second thought.
“He was so used to being a player,” recalled Dick Bennett, “that he failed to pass it on.”
And that’s kind of how it’s always been for Bennett since he got into coaching. Bennett was, and still is, a player at heart.
As Bennett prepares for the first game of his Virginia tenure on Friday night against Longwood, that mentality should serve him well. Being able to relate to today’s players is one of the most important aspects of a coach’s job.
It’s an ability that Bennett’s predecessor, Dave Leitao, sometimes struggled with.
When Leitao took over for the entertaining yet sometimes lax Pete Gillen after the 2004-05 season, he proved to be just what the doctor ordered — a stern, no-nonsense guy who demanded discipline.
However, when the team’s performance started to spiral, Leitao’s style took its toll on players. A little bit of Gillen’s approach might have served Leitao well.
With Bennett, Virginia may have found a more balanced combination of the two.
“[Bennett’s] whole demeanor is different than coach Leitao’s,” said Virginia sophomore Sylven Landesberg, during the team’s recent media day. “Coach Bennett is more laid back. If you mess up, instead of yelling at you, he’ll pull you over to the side.
“He’ll talk to you personally and won’t put your whole business out there…I guess it’s better because we’re not afraid to mess up or anything, because we know if we do, Coach Bennett will talk to us in private and not in front of everyone.”
What’s interesting about Bennett’s style is that it differs dramatically from his father’s.
“I think Tony has considerable more poise than me,” Dick Bennett said. “I tended to be a bit more intense on the sidelines.
“Tony is more of a players’ coach.”
Tony had one heck of a ride as a player. He played under his father for four years at Wisconsin-Green Bay, then enjoyed a brief career in the NBA.
It was coming out of Preble High in Green Bay, Wisc., that Bennett — a first-team all-state pick two years running who was named Wisconsin’s “Mr. Basketball” his senior year — had a little fun with his “intense” father.
During his senior year, Tony had still not committed to Wisconsin-Green Bay, even though it was widely assumed that he would. Tony let his dad squirm a little. He talked of taking official visits to warm-weather locales like the University of Hawaii.
“I was getting a little antsy because [four] other guys had committed and he was the central piece to that recruiting class and he was delaying,” Dick Bennett recalled. “I tried to put a little heat on him.”
Tony remembers one particular father-son conversation.
“He comes in and says, ‘Son, the other four guys have committed. I need to know. You have two days to give me an answer, otherwise the scholarship’s coming off the table,’” said Tony, smiling. “He said, ‘I’ve got to move on.’ He was playing hardball with me.”
The next day was Parents Night at Preble High. Tony, with an anxious coach and father in the stands, poured in 42 points. “After every basket,” Tony recalled, “I would just glare at him.”
Tony wound up committing to Wisconsin-Green Bay the next day.
Over 20 years later, Dick Bennett said he never really had any doubts. “I felt all along he was going to commit to us,” he said.
Love and basketball
It wasn’t until the summer after his sophomore season that Bennett believed there was a chance to fulfill his lifelong dream of playing in the NBA. That summer, he played on the Pan-Am team with the likes of Kenny Anderson and Bobby Hurley.
Two years later, after finishing his college career as the NCAA’s all-time most accurate 3-point shooter at 49.7 percent — a mark that still stands today — Bennett was selected in the second round of the 1992 NBA Draft by the Charlotte Hornets.
Bennett wound up backing up former Wake Forest standout Mugsy Bogues.
“You realize that it’s a grind — physically and mentally,” Bennett said. “You go through some of the rigors and realize, ‘Boy, it’s not everything it’s cracked up to be.
“But, playoff basketball — you can’t touch that…I just loved it.”
It was while playing for the Hornets that Bennett attended his first ACC tournament in nearby Greensboro. Bennett remembers Randolph Childress tearing it up for the Demon Deacons in one of the games he saw.
It was also while playing for the Hornets that Bennett met his wife, Laurel. An LSU graduate, Laurel had moved to Charlotte to attend graduate school and was working at a church when she met Tony, who had stopped by to give a talk to a group of children.
The two didn’t begin dating until about a year-and-a-half later. On their first date, they went to see the movie, “Shawshank Redemption” and went for Ben & Jerry’s ice cream afterward.
“I still have the spoon, although I don’t know if you should print that — it sounds sick,” said Laurel Bennett, laughing.
Laurel said there were many things she loved about Tony from the get-go. One Valentine’s Day she made him a tape that listed all of those attributes.
“He had an innocence about him that I loved and still do,” Laurel said. “And he was a very sincere, real person. He played in the NBA, but you would have never have known that by talking to him. He is just very real, which is important to me as anything else.
“[And] his faith was most important to him and was something really important to me, and still is.”
About nine months after a movie and ice cream, Laurel and Tony wed.
At his introductory press conference in April, Bennett recalled a conversation he had with Laurel, as they were sitting on the airplane, on their way to their new home in Charlottesville. The couple discussed how the press conference that they were about to take part in was similar to a wedding day.
“It’s a celebration,” said Bennett, in his opening remarks that day. “There’s a lot of promise. A lot of excitement. But what really matters, quite honestly, is the marriage, and that’s the daily investment. It’s the promise over time, and that commitment, and I think that that is what it takes to build a program…
“You have to ask my wife if our marriage is good, so hopefully it is.”
To that end, Virginia fans will be delighted to hear that Tony and Laurel, who have a young daughter (Anna) and son (Eli), are doing just fine, thank you.
“I would say our marriage is doing very well,” said Laurel Bennett, laughing, “and that’s not just an interview answer.”
Laurel says communication has always been the key.
“We do a good job of talking about where we are in life,” she said. “We can talk about anything. I feel like we’re in a really good place. We’re both excited about this new job and the place where we’re going to be to raise our family.”
An unexpected career choice
Funny thing is, Tony Bennett, a humanities major at Wisconsin-Green Bay, never thought he’d be a coach. Not in a million years.
He had watched his dad coach all his life. In addition, he had seen his sister, Kathi, coach at the University of Evansville.
“I said, ‘That’s the last thing I ever want to do,’” Bennett said.
But then Bennett’s NBA playing career was cut short by a series of injuries. Suddenly, he found himself in New Zealand of all places, serving as a player-coach, and then the team’s general manger.
“I realized that it’s the next best thing to playing — coaching and influencing guys,” Bennett said.
That led to Bennett serving as a volunteer coach (and drinking all that “BadgerMAX”) on his father’s Wisconsin team. That year, the 1999-2000 season, the Badgers went to the Final Four.
“I said, ‘Now this isn’t too tough. I could enjoy this,’” said Bennett, smiling. “I think I got suckered into it.”
Bennett worked under his father and then subsequent Badger coaches Brad Soderberg and Bo Ryan. When his father decided to return to coaching at Washington State, Tony joined him — with the understanding he would be his successor.
In his three years at WSU, Bennett, who had recruited every player in the program, compiled a record of 69-33. In the 2006-07 season, he took the program to the Sweet 16 en route to being named National Coach of the Year.
Bennett said he owes a lot of his success to his father.
“I’ve learned so much from him,” Bennett said, “but we have different personalities.
“He was a head coach from Day 1 — his whole career. I’ve been a player in the NBA and an assistant under so many different influences.”
Dick Bennett agrees that he and his son are cut from a different cloth in many ways. While the two share many of the same defensive principles, their offensive beliefs vary.
“I think he has a far better mind offensively and a better handle offensively than I did,” the elder Bennett said. “He’s a bit more creative.”
Bennett says that poise has always been Tony’s biggest strength, even as a player. He recalled a conversation he had with former Charlotte Hornets coach Allan Bristow.
“I remember him telling me that as a rookie, he often tried to have him in the game at the end. That was with [Alonzo] Mourning and Larry Johnson.
“He said, ‘I like him in there because he’s just very poised late in the game.’ He’s just always been that way.”
Laurel, who played some high school basketball back in her day, said Tony has always been very even-keeled.
“After a win or after a loss, he’s always the same guy,” she said. “You have to appreciate that because I think it’s a very volatile profession.
“I think he’s a players’ coach. He loves the game and cares about people. He wants to teach and care about people.
“He wants to have relationships with players, not just coach-player ones. It’s kind of like, ‘I’m a person, you’re a person.’ He knows he can’t handle each player the same way — I think he’s very aware of that.”
The “E” word
Just before Bennett agreed to take the job at Virginia, he asked Athletic Director Craig Littlepage a question.
“I said, ‘What are your expectations?’” Bennett said.
To Bennett, it was of vital importance.
“If you’re going to build a program with a good base that is hopefully going to last, you have to have the ability to build it step by step,” he said. “Get a group of young men to come in, mature them, get guys who buy into your style and play in a way that gives you a chance, and that does take some time.
“Now, does that mean you don’t go after it your first year, your second year, your third year? Can you have success? Absolutely. You can. But there is a process that takes place.”
Dick Bennett, who will be on hand to watch his son’s first game on Friday versus Longwood, has confidence that his son will get the job done at Virginia — eventually.
“I know that in time he will,” he said. “It will be difficult early. I have enough feel for what he’s facing to know that he has his hands full right out of the shoot. I do know that.”
The elder Bennett has viewed video of the team’s recent closed-door
scrimmage against Marquette.
“He doesn’t have anywhere near the talent that he left at Washington State — or at least not the kind of players who understand what he wants,” Bennett said. “That’s probably as big of an issue as raw talent.”
In Dick Bennett’s third and final year at the helm at WSU, the team finished last in the conference.
Tony took over the following season. After being predicted to finish last again, Bennett led the squad to a second-place finish. WSU finished 26-8 — the 26 victories were a school record.
But Bennett, who had spent three years recruiting the players on that team, is the first to admit things aren’t about to change overnight in Charlottesville.
“There’s a building process that needs to take place,” Tony Bennett said. “Do fans understand that? Do media? Do alumni? Not all, but you have to have a plan and stick to it. That’s my plan.
“My expectations are that it’s going to take three or four years to get your guys in place.”
Bennett knows full well that there will probably be plenty of rough times ahead.
“There were some brutal losses [at WSU] and they looked awful at times, but they really stayed together,” he said.
One of Bennett’s favorite sayings is one he picked up from his father.
“He said, ‘I’ve got to recruit a group of guys who I can lose with before I can win,’” Bennett said.
“The point being that you will go through adversity in this building process and you better have the kind of players, whether it’s really going good or not going good, they’re going to stay together.
“Because eventually when they mature, some good things are going to happen.”
Brown Sorely Missed on Offense
Nov. 8, 2009
CHARLOTTESVILLE -- After four games this season, wide receiver Javaris Brown had six catches for 131 yards and one touchdown and seemed poised to become UVa's No. 1 deep threat.
He's played in only one game since then, against Georgia Tech on Oct. 24. Brown, a 5-11, 175-pound redshirt freshman, was in for 10 snaps against the Yellow Jackets and caught one pass for 5 yards.
Brown has not fallen out of favor with his coaches, who would love to have him in the lineup. He's hurt.
"It's just one of those high-ankle sprains," Al Groh said on his Sunday night teleconference. "With each guy, it's just an issue of how long it takes him to come back from it. At his position, you've got to really be able to plant and cut. He's got most of his straight-line speed back. He has not quite yet had the full-speed cuts the way that he needs to have them.
"We look every week. We really ran him through a pretty tough test last Thursday in the hopes that he might be ready to do something. It turned out it might take at least another week."
Another key offensive player, quarterback Jameel Sewell, missed UVa's game against ACC rival Miami this weekend. Sewell has a shoulder injury, and his status for Virginia's game against visiting Boston College on Saturday is uncertain.
Not all the medical news has been bad for the Wahoos. Defensive end Matt Conrath, who hadn't played since spraining his right ankle Oct. 17 against Maryland, started against Miami.
Conrath, a 6-7, 270-pound sophomore, made three tackles, including one for a 3-yard loss.
"He held up longer" than expected, Groh said, but Conrath's "game was noticeably affected by it. Not noticeable during the course of the game, but noticeable in reviewing the video. When you see him in close-line action, where he had the need to be able to put that foot down and really push off it, he wasn't able to do that.
"He did last longer. I had concerns how long he could last when somebody would fall on the back of his legs or whatever, but he was able to hang in there pretty good."
Outside linebacker Aaron Clark, who'd sprained his knee against Georgia Tech, also returned to face the Hurricanes. Clark and Conrath had been listed as questionable for the Miami game on the injury report UVa released Thursday night.
-- Jeff White
Clarification from ACC on Controversial Call
Nov. 8, 2009
CHARLOTTESVILLE -- Just got off the phone with Doug Rhoads, the ACC's coordinator of football officials. I'd contacted Rhoads to see if he could explain a call that confused UVa coaches, players and fans, as well as media members at the game, Saturday at Land Shark Stadium in Miami Gardens, Fla.
Rhoads knows how it looked to some observers, but he said emphatically Sunday afternoon that he doesn't believe a penalty on Virginia linebacker Cameron Johnson was missed on the field and then called by the official in the replay booth.
On the play in question, Johnson sacked Jacory Harris for an apparent 13-yard loss in the third quarter. In doing so, Johnson grabbed the back of the Miami quarterback's helmet, which came off.
Referee Tom McCreesh blew the play dead, but Johnson and Harris continued to wrestle for the ball on the ground. It appeared that the tussle might escalate to involve other players, and McCreesh flagged Johnson and Harris for offsetting penalties.
With all that going on, McCreesh wasn't able to determine where the ball should be spotted, so he asked the official in the video booth for assistance. And over the P.A. system came this announcement from an official: "We will have to go to replay to determine the spot of the ball when he was down. We do have an offsetting dead-ball foul."
McCreesh never indicated that a facemask penalty had been called on Johnson, but when the officials' ruling finally was announced, that was part of it. The Miami fans roared with approval, while Al Groh and the Virginia sideline looked on in disbelief.
It appeared that the official in the replay booth had spotted Johnson's infraction and made the call from upstairs, but that wasn't the case, Rhoads said several times Sunday.
"After reviewing the officials' statements and the complete video -- by that I mean all the views of it -- I have determined that it was administered correctly, in that there were two offsetting personal fouls and a facemask," Rhoads said.
"However, in reviewing their statements and the play it was determined that on the field, because the referee had to 1, react to the helmet coming off, which by rule makes the ball dead, if it's the runner, and 2, stop the clock, because you don't want it to continue to run, and 3, step in to intercede, as did all of those officials, he inadvertently failed to throw a second flag or his hat.
"The replay was used to determine the spot where the ball had become dead, which is where the ball carrier was when his helmet comes off, and to identity the number of all of those offenders."
"That is a proper use of replay, to determine a spot, but under no circumstances did replay determine the foul or interject the fact that the foul had occurred. That was done from the field."
McCreesh had immediately detected the facemask on the field, Rhoads said, but in the confusion that followed forgot to signal that the infraction had occurred.
Also, Rhoads said, the call on Johnson was correct. A player may not grab any opening of the helmet or the facemask or the chinstrap.
Rhoads called the play a teaching point and said it will be included on the training video he sends to his officials each week.
-- Jeff White
Cavaliers’ offense not possessive enough
By Michael Phillips
Published: November 9, 2009
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For Virginia coach Al Groh, watching the tape yesterday of a 52-17 loss to Miami was just confirmation of what he'd suspected.
"I didn't think after the game that we'd played very well," he said last night. "And I felt the same way after watching the video. We have played better in other games."
After enjoying a brief October run, November could be less kind as the Wahoos' final three opponents all have winning records. And as was revealed yesterday, good teams have a way of exploiting weaknesses.
For Virginia, that has been a tendency to keep its defense on the field for too long, which led in part to the floodgates opening in the second half on Saturday. The question is whether time of possession is something that can be controlled, or rather just an indicator of how the game has gone.
In three victories, U.Va. has had the ball for an average of 31 minutes, 25 seconds. In losses, that number shrank to 24 minutes, 44 seconds. The season average of just less than 27 minutes ranks the Hoos 114th among the 120 FBS teams.
The fourth-quarter scoring also gives off the appearance that the defense is worse than it really is. Longtime Miami Herald columnist Edwin Pope opened his postgame story by saying: "What a lot of people can't figure out today is how Virginia ever won three games this season."
Those wins happened back when the offense was clicking, and the team was sustaining drives through the legs of Mikell Simpson, Rashawn Jackson and Jameel Sewell. Now only Jackson is operating at his full potential.
Groh acknowledged last night that time of possession isn't a stat that lends itself to padding.
"One of the important things of time of possession is points per minutes of possession," he said. "You can have significant time of possession, and if not enough points come out of it, it doesn't carry as much weight."
To that extent, Cavaliers coaches chart a select few statistics as the game is going on that they feel give them the opportunity to be successful.
One point of emphasis yesterday was to finish off Hurricanes quarterback Jacory Harris when he was in third-down situations. Miami's 8-of-14 conversion rate speaks to how that pursuit ended.
"We came in with a very specific plan," Groh said after the game. "Part of that is getting off the field on third down. We had some opportunities to do that, but let the QB out of the pocket."
Virginia's defense did get some good news in the form of Matt Conrath's return from injury -- Groh said he looked better than expected and held up well throughout the game.
On offense, Marc Verica was unable to duplicate Harris' success, and the Hoos finished just 2 of 12 on third-down conversions. Verica was filling in because of a shoulder injury to Sewell.
Groh added last night that the third-string quarterback is redshirt freshman Riko Smalls, who took warm-up snaps with the quarterbacks Saturday during the pregame.
With only three games remaining, Virginia will have to win out to become bowl eligible. With that unlikely, the coach was asked last night what his team would be playing for down the stretch.
"We're playing to win on Saturday," Groh said. "Really, in the long run, that's what we're playing for every week, is to walk out of that place on Saturday and say everything that we put into it -- the practice, the planning, the competition -- hey, we've got this to show for it.
"That's about as long-term as my world is. Next Saturday."
Can UVa stage a comeback?
By Jay Jenkins
Published: November 9, 2009
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Demoralized and defeated, Virginia quarterback Marc Verica attempted to scurry off the field at Land Shark Stadium on Saturday.
As was the case during the 52-17 beating from Miami, the Cavaliers’ signal caller was not nearly elusive enough.
Verica, making his first start of the season, was quickly confronted by local television reporters, an act shunned seconds after a contest, only to be grilled about the setback.
For Verica and Virginia’s subdued players it felt like a broken record.
The Cavaliers (3-6, 2-3 ACC) have, in fact, lost 10 of their past 13 games and three straight as the offense continues to sputter.
Verica, who declined to speak with local reporters, was one of the culprits as he threw 18 incomplete passes and managed just 75 yards passing.
Miami, barely alive in the chase for the Coastal Division title, did not have such issues. The Hurricanes (7-2, 4-2) piled up 515 yards of total offense against Virginia’s once stellar defense.
“Miami’s got a lot of
playmakers in all three phases of the game,” Virginia coach Al Groh said, “and we had a lot of difficulty controlling those playmakers and matching those playmakers.
“We knew what the match-up was going to be coming in and it would be if we could control those playmakers and keep them from taking over the game, which they did a real good job of framing the game up their way and making it go that way.”
Despite Miami scoring the game’s final 28 points to make the final outcome lopsided, the contest was not without flair.
Virginia was called for numerous penalties that seemed questionable, including a personal foul on defensive end Nate Collins and a facemask penalty on linebacker Cam Johnson that was oddly called only after an instant replay session was called for to check the spot of the ball.
On the penalty on Johnson, he ended up on top of Miami quarterback Jacory Harris and the two scuffled until they were separated.
In the fray, Harris said his helmet-less head was knocked by Johnson’s helmet.
“After that, it was on,” said Harris, who weighs 190 pounds. “The referees were holding me back. They think, just because I’m skinny, I won’t retaliate.”
Virginia did not retaliate on the field, folding over the final 20 minutes en route to making the contest a laugher.
Can the Cavaliers bounce back from their solemn position now as their coach appears to be heading into his final weeks at the helm?
Having lost 10 of the past 13 games overall, Virginia (3-6, 2-3 ACC) must beat Boston College, Clemson and Virginia Tech to have a chance to be invited to a bowl game.
“It is going to be tough but we are going to take it week by week,” Virginia linebacker Bill Schautz said. “We are going to get after and get ready for Boston College and see what happens. “Then we will just go from there.”
While the Cavaliers have little to play for outside of pride and a low-level bowl berth, Boston College enters Saturday hoping to win the Atlantic Division.
“That stuff is out of our hands,” Virginia wideout Jared Green said. “We just have to work on getting better and turning this thing around.”
Virginia wideout Javaris Brown did not make the trip to Miami and is suffering from a high ankle sprain, according to Groh. … Defensive end Matt Conrath played “longer” than the coaching staff expected in his return from an ankle injury.
The silent treatment
Andrew Seidman, Cavalier Daily Senior Associate Editor
November 9, 2009 0
When Virginia’s offense trotted out onto the field for the first snap of Saturday’s game against Miami, the PA announcer informed the media: “Jameel Sewell is in at quarterback for the Cavaliers … Correction: Marc Verica.”
So began a 60-minute-long joke.
“I’m not talking,” Verica, the junior quarterback, said after the game as he headed for the team bus. “I’m sorry.”
Can’t blame him. I probably wouldn’t want to talk after engineering a 35-point loss, either. Sure, few — if any — expected the Cavaliers to defeat the then-No. 16 Hurricanes at Land Shark Stadium. After witnessing Virginia’s fourth quarter collapse against Duke last week, it’s hard to believe anyone expects anything other than mediocrity from the Cavaliers. But just one week after Wake Forest posted 555 total yards of offense against Randy Shannon and Co., Virginia’s 149-yard effort may be just as baffling as its season-opening loss to William & Mary, or just as absurd as the fact that the Cavaliers have somehow managed to defeat three Division I teams.
“They’ve got Riley Skinner,” coach Al Groh said.
I suppose that implies that Virginia does not have a quarterback the caliber of Skinner. But even I didn’t think Verica was capable of an 11-for-29 performance — and I’ve thought terrible, unforgivable things about Verica, things that have been repeatedly censored by my editor.
Everyone knows about Verica’s 16 interceptions in 2008. They doubled his touchdown output. They reminded you that no matter how inept you were at your job, there was still a whole other level of incompetence to be reached.
But those interceptions overshadow a much less-known fact: His 63.8 completion percentage ranked first in the ACC a year ago. He threw for 200 or more yards in six straight games, tying Matt Schaub for the Virginia record. In other words, despite his high turnover ratio, Verica was actually an accurate passer last season.
It seemed like he couldn’t complete a pass Saturday. He overthrew his screen passes. He threw behind sophomore receiver Kris Burd, who had beat his defender downfield on a critical third down after Miami had seized a 14-point lead in the third quarter. He once again tried a jump ball to 5-foot-9 Vic Hall. And whenever Verica was in a definite passing situation, one of Miami’s offensive linemen was right there to greet him.
Verica’s completion percentage has now dipped below 45 percent this season. Even given his sparse playing time and small sample size of throws, such a precipitous drop is startling. It’s plausible that Verica took a sizable shot to his confidence when he was stripped of his starting job after the return of senior Jameel Sewell, who was academically ineligible in 2008. He also had Kevin Ogletree and John Phillips to throw to last year; the drop in talent and experience at the receiver and tight end position has been readily apparent in 2009. Still, 75 yards on 29 attempts is hard to watch — I almost felt bad for the guy.
“A lot of the coverage was tight man-to-man coverage,” Groh said. “When a quarterback faces that, whoever the quarterback might be, that’s a question of — we’ve gotta … give somebody the quarterback to target. If the quarterback doesn’t have anybody to target and he’s standing in the pocket and he throws it away to anybody, then it’s grounding. So that puts a lot of pressure on the pass protection.”
Indeed, Virginia’s offensive line dropped another bombshell Saturday, making a significant contribution to the Cavaliers’ Three Act Comedy.
Midway through the first quarter, a friend of mine who was watching the game on TV sent me a text: “Doc Walker says our offensive line is a ‘good group.’”
When junior cornerback Ras-I Dowling intercepted sophomore quarterback Jacory Harris’s flea-flicker and returned it to the Miami 26-yard line with 5:26 remaining in the quarter, Virginia was poised to take the lead. Three plays and two yards later, the reporter sitting next to me remarked, “This has gotta be the worst offensive line in Virginia history.”
That’s more like it.
But my personal favorite Virginia mistake was a collective one that embodied the carelessness and “this-is-why-we’re-going-to-lose-out” spirit of the team. With 1:17 left in the first quarter and the score knotted at 10 apiece, Miami sophomore punt returner Thearon Collier hauled in a Virginia punt at the Hurricane 40 as six Cavaliers closed in on him and seemed to have him trapped along the left sideline. Redshirt freshman Ausar Walcott nearly locked Collier up. Freshman Perry Jones had him by the ankles. And four others idly watched Collier cut across the field and dash along the right sideline for a touchdown. Some sort of inverted Tragedy of the Commons.
“We had plenty of guys there,” Groh said.
Add the fact that this play was one of three Miami touchdowns that took a combined three minutes and 27 seconds to execute, and you get your 2009 Virginia Cavaliers.
White: After Heartbreaking Loss, 'Hoos Look to NCAAs
Courtesy: VirginiaSports.com Release: 11/08/2009
By Jeff White
CHARLOTTESVILLE -- Fans who had spent much of the previous two hours chanting and cheering for the home team Sunday afternoon filed quietly out of the University Hall Turf Field.
UVa's field hockey players might have wanted to leave, too. But they stood and stared numbly as their counterparts from Maryland accepted the huge trophy that goes to the ACC champion.
Watching the Terrapins celebrate, Virginia junior goalkeeper Kim Kastuk said later, brought to her mind "a lot of what-ifs, definitely a lot of frustration. You work all year for this, and you come up just short. It's definitely painful, and a little bit of a shock, too. But we have the NCAA tournament to look forward to and put all our emotions into that, just working hard and coming back stronger."
A regulation game lasts 70 minutes. This one was decided in the 72nd minute, when Megan Frazer, off an assist from Emma Thomas, converted on a penalty corner to give defending NCAA champion Maryland a 3-2 sudden-death victory before a boisterous crowd of 733 on a sparkling fall day.
"It was a great game and a great effort by both teams," said Michele Madison, UVa's fourth-year coach. "I don't think you could ask for anything more in a championship game. There were a lot of champions on that field."
The Wahoos (18-3) can expect to be seeded No. 2 or No. 3 in the NCAA tournament, whose 16-team field will be announced Tuesday night. Whether UVa will be awarded a regional is uncertain, but Madison hopes her team's performance in the ACC tourney impresses the NCAA selection committee.
The ACC title was the second straight and eighth overall for the Terrapins. The Cavaliers, who advanced to the championship game for the first time since 2000, are still seeking their first crown.
Virginia led 2-0 at halftime, on goals by freshmen Charlotte van den Broek and Tara Puffenberger, and Madison tried to temper her players' excitement at the break.
Play as if the score is 0-0, she told them, and give maximum effort for 35 more minutes.
"There's no way a team as good as Maryland is going to lay down and die," Madison said, "and we knew that."
With 16 minutes left in the second half, however, the score was still 2-0. But the top-seeded Terrapins (20-0) pulled even with two goals in a span of 97 seconds, a flurry that clearly rattled UVa.
Sophomore Rachel Jennings said the Wahoos (18-3), who lost 3-1 to the Terps during the regular season, lost intensity once they built the two-goal lead.
"I think we let up a little bit, which is something I think we really need to work on," Jennings said. "Obviously when you're up 2-0, you're really excited about it, especially against a great team like Maryland.
"A lot of people didn't expect that from us, but I think that's definitely a flaw that we had today, that we got a little comfortable with the lead. Hopefully we can fix that by tournament time."
Virginia, the No. 3 seed, had a chance to win on the final play of regulation. The 'Hoos were awarded a penalty corner, but goalkeeper Alicia Grater's save saved the Terps and sent the game into overtime.
"I guess it just didn't work out for us, but obviously it was really exciting," Jennings said. "You just dream of moments like that: to have no time left on the clock and have a corner. Hopefully, we'll get an opportunity like that again and be successful."
In regulation, a field hockey game is 11 on 11. In overtime, it's seven on seven. That gives players more room to operate on the field and increases the probability that penalty corners will be converted.
The Terps were 0 for 7 on penalty corners in regulation, but they didn't waste the first opportunity they got in OT.
"We give a lot of credit to Maryland," Jennings said. "They're an amazing team, and it's just moments like this and games like this that prepare us for the tournament. I honestly don't think we're going to play a team harder than Maryland until we meet up with them in the tournament, so obviously this was great preparation."
"Yeah," van den Broek said with a smile. "We're going to meet them again."
Virginia loses heartbreaker in ACC title game
After Cavaliers take 2-0 lead in first half, Terrapins force championship game to overtime, win by one
Ben Gomez, Cavalier Daily Associate Editor
Featured / Field Hockey / Sports
November 9, 2009 0
The No. 3 Virginia women’s field hockey fell 3-2 in overtime against No. 1 Maryland in the championship game of the ACC Tournament yesterday afternoon. Not only did the loss deprive the Cavaliers of the title, but of tying the program’s record for most wins in a season as well.
Maryland (20-0, 5-0 ACC) walked away from Turf Field with its second consecutive ACC Championship and eighth overall in school history.
“It was a great effort by both teams. I don’t think you could ask for anything more in a championship game,” Virginia coach Michele Madison said. “Maryland just squeaked it out at the end in overtime.”
Less than two minutes into overtime, the Terrapins earned a corner and freshman midfielder Meghan Frazer snaked the ball into the cage past junior goalkeeper Kim Katsuk for the win.
But it was not clear from the start that this would be how the game would end, as the Cavaliers staked an early lead. The home squad (18-3, 3-2 ACC) excelled at cutting into the circle during the first half, tallying four corners in the opening period. Fourteen minutes into the game, freshman back Charlotte van den Broek converted her second career goal as she tipped the ball in from the left post off an assist from sophomore midfielder Inga Stöckel on a penalty corner.
The Cavalier offense retained control for most of the first half and extended the lead after capitalizing on a corner again.
Virginia’s second score was netted by freshman midfielder Tara Puffenberger on another tip-in, this time from the right post, off an assist from sophomore midfielder Michelle Vittese. The 2-0 deficit for the Terrapins at halftime was largest they had faced all year.
It was not as if the Maryland offense lacked opportunities to get on the board during the first half, however. Led by 2008 ACC Offensive Player of the Year, junior forward Katie O’Donnell, the Terrapins took 10 shots, one more than Virginia.
“It’s hard not to get excited, but you come back and it’s 0-0 for another 35 minutes,” Madison said. “There is no way a team as good as Maryland is going to lay down and die, and we knew that, so we had to muster it up and dig deep and play better than we did in the first half.”
But the Cavaliers came out of the locker room with a more conservative and tentative approach. The Terrapins, on the other hand, came out of halftime re-energized, constantly pushing the ball into the circle. Following a timeout early in the second half, O’Donnell dribbled down the end line and shot the ball past Katsuk to cut the lead to one. The goal proved to be a turning point, as it injected life into the Terrapins and visibly eroded Virginia’s confidence.
Not even two minutes later, Maryland senior forward Nicole Muracco scored an ACC-leading 27th goal of the season, assisted by senior midfielder Alexis Pappas, to knot the score at two apiece.
“I think we let up a little bit, which is something we need to work on,” sophomore midfielder Rachel Jennings said. “Obviously when you are up 2-0 against a team as good as Maryland, you are excited. We got too comfortable with the lead.”
During that two-minute stretch, the Terrapins played at a championship level and demonstrated why they have been the nation’s top-ranked team all season.
Maryland’s goals gave the team momentum that the Cavaliers failed to regain. As regulation wound down, the Cavaliers appeared tired and did not mount any substantial attack at taking back the lead. The Virginia offense remained stagnant for most of the second half, only managing two shots to Maryland’s 12. The Cavaliers also failed to capitalize on one final spark after securing a penalty corner shot.
“You dream of moments like that to have no time on the clock and have a corner and an opportunity like that,” Jennings said.
Virginia’s deflated level of play continued into overtime, despite starting the period with the ball. Maryland quickly scored to finish the game 3-2 and take home the conference title. It was the ninth time an ACC field hockey title has been settled in overtime.
After the loss, Maryland remains the only ACC team that Virginia coach Michele Madison has yet to defeat in her collegiate coaching career. Virginia sophomore midfielders Paige Selenski and Inga Stöckel and freshman back Charlotte van den Broek were named to the all-tournament team. Seeds for the NCAA Tournament will be announced this week and first round play will begin next weekend.
Devvarman falls to Kim in VNB final
By Whitey Reid
Published: November 9, 2009
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In the aftermath of a thrilling three-set win over former Virginia star Somdev Devvarman on Sunday in the finals of the Virginia National Bank Men’s Pro Championships, Kevin Kim said he never wants to see Devvarman again, let alone play him again.
Anyone in attendance at the Boar’s Head Sports Club on Sunday evening could tell you exactly why.
Devvarman grinded and grinded against Kim, the No. 87 player in the world. When he was done grinding, he grinded some more.
Devvarman overcame three match points in the second set before falling to Kim, 4-6, 7-6 (10-8), 4-6 in a match that featured endless baseline rallies.
“It took me I don’t how many match points to get the match over with,” Kim said. “I mean every match point was at least 30 balls.
Kim said Devvarman was similar in style to current Virginia player Sanam Singh, whom he defeated in the quarterfinals on Friday night.
“Either way, I’d just rather play somebody else,” said Kim, when asked to compare the two.
Kim was leading 4-3 in the final set when he appeared to injure his leg after a fall.
“I knew once I fell to the ground, I kind of knew my chances of staying in a long rally weren’t good,” Kim said, “so I kind of attacked him and he sort of folded from there.
“I took my chances and it happened to work out.”
Devvarman, whose No. 121 ranking should go up after his run to the finals, wasn’t too bummed.
“Of course it’s disappointing to lose in the finals, but it’s just another match. I’ll just go on to the next one [in Knoxville] and try and do better.”
Having the chance to play in front of friends and former teammates was a dream come true, Devvarman said.
“It was awesome the way the whole community came out,” he said. “I love playing here and was really grateful to have all that support.”
Meanwhile, in the doubles final, Virginia alums Dom Inglot and Rylan Rizza put on a good showing before coming up just short, losing to Martin Emmrich (Germany) and Andreas Siljestrom (Sweden) 4-6, 6-3, 9-11.
“This is the first time we’ve ever played together, so we’re really happy that we jelled so well,” Inglot said. “There were just a few points here and there that decided the match all together.
“We’re disappointed that we couldn’t have won it in front of the home crowd, but we’ve done really well and are really happy. Hopefully, we can take that into other tournaments that we play together.”
Inglot and Rizza have elected to keep their partnership going. They plan on playing two Challenger events in Japan in a few weeks.
Inglot said he wasn’t surprised at the duo’s success.
“If you get along well, you can jell a lot quicker,” he said. “If you don’t know your partner, then it’s harder.
“But Riz and I are good friends. He was a fourth-year when I was a first-year. We have some history and know how each other play. And if you have fun on the court like we did, it’s easier.”