2010 Pre Season Record: 17-9 Series Record: 10-2
End of Season Standing: 5T Atlantic Coast Regionals, eliminated in the Backdoor Semifinal (9-13 to Georgia Tech)
Trouble in Vegas, 2nd at Tally Classic V, 3rd at Wilmington 8s, 1st at Blue Ridge Sectionals, 5th at Atlantic Coast Regionals
After a 2009 campaign that saw Virginia win the Atlantic Coast Region and make Quarterfinals in its first-ever trip to the College Championships, the team’s expectations were high for 2010. While Virginia graduated 10 players in 2009, it kept a bevy of young talent from its Nationals run and employed a coach for the first time in team history. Night Train posted quality wins over Michigan State (13-11 at Tally Classic V), Georgia (15-14 in Easterns pool play), and Cornell (14-11 in Easterns pre-Quarter).
At Regionals, however, Night Train fell short of a return to Nationals. While Virginia’s give-and-go offense that facilitated senior Tyler Conger’s improvisation proved effective against lesser opponents, Night Train lacked reliable secondary options when matched up against better teams. The steady hand of Robert Runner was noticeably missing, as was 2009’s sense of urgency. Night Train fell to two teams with comparable talent but less erratic tendencies: 10-12 to UNC-Wilmington in Semifinal and 9-13 to Georgia Tech in the final game of the season.
Roster Turnover and Offseason Club Experience:
Conger is gone, as are handler Will Galebach, cutter Jason Lippman, and deep specialist Tim Pennucci. The good news for Night Train, though, is that the list of graduates stops there. Returning is fifth-year handler Matt King, captains Tom Licitra and Andrew Wilkes, and top defender Jesse Macadangdang, along with the rest of a Night Train team that, on top of being a year more experienced, is now motivated by the feeling that comes along with falling short at Regionals.
Much of the team’s top talent played club in 2010 with the Virginia Squires, and many of those players were on the field in the Mid-Atlantic Backdoor Final against Ring of Fire. Matching up against top club players provided great exposure to the physicality and intensity that is now a given at the sport’s top levels, and Night Train will certainly benefit from its players spending time together on a club team that advanced to Sunday at Regionals.
Other 2010 club experience includes Alex Dagley playing with Tanasi, Wilkes spending his summer in New York with PoNY, and a handful of players suiting up with Floodwall and Roots of Rhythm.
Virginia’s on-field approach must be re-vamped this year. Last season’s offense relied heavily on Conger’s breakmark throws in a vertical stack, sometimes at the expense of other players looking off open upfield throws. Most of those players left Regionals determined to become more well-rounded throwers so that Night Train would become more dynamic, and by all accounts, the summer’s work has paid off.
Historically, Night Train has done well when playmaking responsibilities have been spread out, and few Virginia teams have had the combination of depth and experience that this one does. Look for Night Train to be more balanced than ever on both offense and defense.
Virginia’s fall results were up and down, as ample playing time was given to younger players and some key veterans sat out with injuries. The team attended UOA ACCs, Classic City Classic, and UOA Nationals. Their only challenge at ACCs was in-state rival Virginia Tech, but the story was different at UOA Nationals, where Night Train lost to Virginia Tech, Pittsburgh, and twice to Dartmouth. Virginia did make the finals of CCC for the second straight year, losing to Florida for the second time in the weekend.
Night Train is attending Florida Warm-Up, Easterns, and is hoping to host a home tournament before entering the Series.
With Florida, Georgia, and Georgia Tech gone, Virginia’s only in-region opponent that had a better 2010 is UNC-Wilmington. The team is certainly fired up by the potential of a growing rivalry with the Seamen, but it would be smart not to overlook Virginia Tech or any of the historically strong North Carolina schools.
If Night Train remains healthy and focused, they will contend to win the Atlantic Coast. Should they advance to Nationals, exposure to top teams at Warm-Up and at Easterns ought to pay off, as this year’s team is likely to use its experience at those tough tournaments to adjust throughout the season.