Dom Starsia admits that, even entering his 22nd season as men's lacrosse coach at Virginia, he still gets anxious as opening day approaches.
"For me, even the day before a scrimmage, even after all these years I still get butterflies," a smiling Starsia said at Friday's practice. "We go to Navy tomorrow. I hope we'll score a goal. I hope we'll keep a couple out."
"There's a lot of energy in the air. There's a lot of expectations in the air," Starsia added. "And it has always been one of my favorite times of the year."
Following Saturday's trip to Annapolis, Starsia's team will have a few days of final preparations before opening the regular season at Klöckner Stadium next Thursday against Loyola.
For just the second time in his UVa tenure, Starsia's Cavaliers are coming off a season with both a losing record, and no NCAA Tournament appearance. UVa went 7-8 in 2013 -- including a six-game losing streak, the program's longest in a single season since 1939.
And Starsia says this year's team isn't shying away from last year's struggles.
"It certainly gives you something to talk about," he said.
"For all the guys who have been here, it definitely puts a little edge on everything for us," said defenseman Scott McWilliams. "No one wants to repeat last year. And it's definitely put an edge on everything we've done this year, trying to sharpen up in every aspect of our games."
"Really, we like to approach every game the same way. But there's a little bit of a bad taste in our mouth since last year," said midfielder Bobby Hill. "So definitely, there's a little more eagerness this year than in years past."
UVa enters next week's opener ranked in the top 10 in every major national college lacrosse preseason poll. But the Cavaliers are also looking up at the rest of the new six-team ACC in all of those polls.
Loyola will also come to Charlottesville nationally ranked in all four polls. The Greyhounds also won an NCAA championship in 2012, and were the preseason pick to win the Patriot League this year.
Virginia won the 2011 national title. The Cavaliers still have several players who were a part of that championship run -- including fifth-year midfielder Chris LaPierre, who is healthy again after missing most of last season with a knee injury.
"You come to Virginia, and you kind of expect to win. You expect to win championships. And then you win one, then you kind of take a year off. Then two years goes by, and you don't make the playoffs," LaPierre said Friday. "So I think everyone realizes that we've got to get back to our winning ways. And I think we'll do that this year."