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Eulogizing the 2013 College Lacrosse Season: (18) Virginia

The Cavaliers' 2013 season was best described as "Almost famous."

Eric Hartline-US PRESSWIRE

You spent the better part of four months meticulously dissecting the 2013 college lacrosse season. You shouldn't stop now because cold turkey is a bad way to go through life, man. College Crosse is providing decompression snapshots of all 63 teams and their 2013 campaigns, mostly because everything needs a proper burial.


Team: Virginia Cavaliers

2013 Record: 7-8 (0-3, ACC)

2013 Strength of Schedule (Efficiency Margin): 3.33 (4)

2012 Strength of Schedule (Efficiency Margin): 2.14 (10)

Winning Percentage Change from 2012: -29.00%

2013 Efficiency Margin: 4.58 (18)

Efficiency Margin Change from 2012: -3.12


  • Buckets of words have been spent on illustrating Virginia's 2013 campaign, an effort that yielded a sub-.500 record and a May spent in boat shoes instead of spikes. Rather than reiterating many of the themes already established about the Cavaliers' most recent season, I want to focus on granular items relative to Virginia for a very simple purpose -- The Cavs weren't all that far away from standing among the nation's strongest teams. With respect to the exceptional aspects of Virginia's play in 2013, the Cavaliers did an admirable job at taking care of the little things, excelling at the rudimentary functions of play that often highlight the difference between teams that outright struggle and those that smash faces. To wit:

    Clearing Percentage 91.80% 4
    Opponent Caused Turnovers per 100 Virginia Offensive Opportunities 14.49 2
    Virginia Unforced Turnovers per 100 Offensive Opportunities 19.43 9
    Virginia Turnovers per 100 Offensive Opportunities 33.92 1
    Turnover Margin per 100 Opportunities +14.10 1
    Estimated Lost Functional Offensive Opportunities Ratio 30.74% 1
    Estimated Lost Functional Opportunities Margin Ratio 12.47% 2
    "Run-of-Play Work Rate" Margin +9.57 1
    Strength of Schedule: Pythagorean Win Expectation 58.51% 4
    The biggest takeaway here is that Virginia didn't exacerbate their problems; by doing a good job at managing the little things that can lead to big, thematic issues -- especially against a slate of opponents that ranked among the toughest in the nation -- the Cavaliers were able to keep themselves tethered to their potential. At a more detailed level: (1) The limitation of turnovers allowed for an offense that was afflicted with shooting woes the opportunity to beat opposing keepers (and this shows up in the team's adjusted offensive efficiency value, a mark that ranked 17th nationally); (2) The high clearing rate allowed that offense that was tormented by opposing keepers an appropriate volume of opportunities to make the scoreboard blink; and (3) The team's care with the bean along with a nose for groundballs helped Virginia work with a heavy turnover margin in their favor, desirable circumstances for any team. All in all, there was sustainable fundamentalism in the Cavaliers' effort last year; that's worth noting despite a record that still doesn't sit well with many Virginia fans.


  • Virginia's six-game losing streak, which stretched from early-March to mid-April, is the kind of performance art that draws blank stares instead of spare change thrown into a hat on the sidewalk. When you also consider that from the start of March through the Duke loss that the Cavaliers won only one game -- a far-too-close 12-10 victory over Vermont at home -- Virginia's reality, based on preconceptions, becomes even more abstract. It's not that the Cavaliers went through 30-plus days of un-Virginia lacrosse, though; rather, it's that Virginia suffered three losses in that stretch that ultimately defined their season and left the Cavaliers on the fringes of the national consciousness. Based on year-long performance metrics, Virginia was expected to win around 62 percent of their games (about nine wins against six losses); due to underachievement/bad luck/whatever, the Cavs only put up seven wins. The major drivers in this underachievement/bad luck/whatever? Its three one-goal losses in games where Virginia was in a position to win:

    Syracuse 8-9 OT (L) Virginia was +10 in possession margin; only scored on about 20% of their offensive possessions; was uncharacteristically loose with the ball.
    Cornell 11-12 (L) Virginia held a 10-8 lead with 8:53 left in regulation; yielded the winning goal with just 0:13 left in regulation; was uncharacteristically loose with the ball.
    Ohio State 10-11 (L) Virginia charged late, knotting the score at 10 with 1:48 to play, but yielded the winning goal just 17 seconds later; lost by one-goal in a game described as a "Push" in a log5 analysis.
    You can see it, right? Virginia was in a position to win all of these games but the opportunity slipped through their fingers. Not all records are created equally; thus, it's that the Cavaliers -- in almost brazen disregard for their program history -- weren't able to summit the mountain when they could have that creates overt disappointment.


  • Look: Virginia will enter 2014 as one of the most talented teams in the nation. Dom Starsia hasn't been spending his days mowing grass and remembering the good times; this is a program that still has highly-charged horses in the stable. There is one thing, however, that sticks out as a developmental necessity prior to the coming spring: Maturation in the crease. Without getting into too much detail, the Cavaliers were arguably among the bottom 15 in the nation in performance value earned through play between the pipes. The Cavaliers can't get that kind of performance again in 2014.