Successful first season

Earlier this spring, Silver Creek Class of 2013 alum, Zed Williams completed his freshman season of lacrosse at the University of Virginia.

“I thought it went well,” Williams said. “(The season) was up and down, but it went well for the most part.”

The Cavaliers won their first six games, before finishing the season 3-5. However, Virgina defeated North Carolina, 13-11, to win the Atlantic Coast Conference championship, but later fell to Johns Hopkins, 14-8, in the first round of the NCAA tournament. Williams managed a goal on six shots – two of which were on target – in the Cavaliers’ final game of the 2014 campaign.

“He had a terrific freshman year,” University of Virginia head coach Dom Starsia told the OBSERVER. “We probably didn’t ask as much of him athletically, because I felt like he had so much on his plate that I didn’t want to overload him. And I think it was a big year for him in terms of just figuring out how to be at the University of Virginia and getting comfortable with all of that. And on balance, he had a terrific year. He had a terrific year playing-wise and he had an excellent year just kind of settling into the university.”

On the season, Williams appeared in 14 of the Cavaliers’ 16 games – including one start – and finished with 15 points (six goals and nine assists).

“He became a team favorite,” Starsia said. “I think the guys on the team really liked him and I think he was very comfortable at Virginia. He did a nice job in school and we could have given him the ball more, I think, but I just didn’t want to overload him with everything going on in his life.”

Williams’ only start of the season came against the Richmond Spiders on Feb. 8 – a 13-12 win – while he made his collegiate debut on Feb. 6 in Virginia’s 14-13 overtime win over Loyola Maryland. He was credited with his first assist in the Cavaliers’ 14-6 win on Feb. 25, and scored his first goal on March 1 in his team’s 17-12 win over then No. 8 Syracuse.

“He spent a lot of the year trying to figure out what kind of player he was and how he fit into things,” Starsia said. “And he fit in just fine. He played a really good freshman year and he’s got a lot more to offer us.”

When he graduated from Silver Creek High School, Williams was the national record holder in boys’ lacrosse for goals scored (444), having eclipsed the 353 scored by Grant Whiteway, of Billeraca, Mass. And for good measure, Williams also set the national mark for career points, as his 729 were 140 more than the points accumulated by Tim Stratton (Manheim Township, Pa.).

“There was so much going on here,” Starsia said. “I think it was a really big deal for Zed to decide to come to Virginia, to come from that far of a distance from home and to come to a challenging academic school. He had to come last summer for summer school and he did a good job.

See WILLIAMS, Page B5

“He came back in the fall and passed all of his classes and he did a good job in the spring,” Starsia continued. “So there was a lot going on here for that young man, and like I said, everyone that watched us play, we sort of soft-pedaled it a little bit early, but the people that were watching that knew us a little bit. Zed really captured everybodys’ attention by late in the season.”

While at Silver Creek, Williams was also second in school history with 1,240 points scored during his days as a member of the boys’ basketball team and rushed for over 1,000 yards during the football season.

“Probably football,” Williams said of the sport he misses playing the most. “You can always play basketball, but you can never play football again.”

Heading into his freshman season, Williams was named as the No. 2 incoming midfielder by Inside Lacrosse, and although he didn’t produce like he did in high school, he was still able to impress his coaches and teammates.

“I was accepted right away,” Williams said. “I couldn’t have asked for a better team, or a better group of guys to go into my first year with.

“They all taught me pretty much how to play,” Williams added of the veterans on the team. “Little things that will help me to play at that level and I just added to my game from watching them.”

And as the season went on, he began to impress not just his own coaches and teammates, but those that he played against as well.

“He did a lot of good things,” Starsia said. “And I think everyone recognized that he really came on as the season went on. And so, I think we’re all anxious for him to be able to really show us what he can do going forward. I just think the sky is the absolute limit with him potential-wise.”

After a busy freshman year, Starsia wanted Williams to be able to head home this summer and relax and enjoy some time with his family.

“I actually wanted him to get away from it all,” Starsia said. “I’m not sure we ever asked more of a young man in terms of academics, than what we asked of Zed this past year, with tutors and study groups and study halls. And I didn’t mind for one bit for him to get away from all of this and go home and enjoy himself. He has a very strong family unit there and I think he was very happy at Virginia, but at the same time, I think he was anxious to get home and I didn’t want to interfere with that.

“He already plays more lacrosse than anyone else in the program,” Starsia continued. “He’ll go home and he’ll play Junior B, or whatever level it is, and I think he got a taste of what he needs to do for us and has a clear understanding of that. And he’ll come back in shape and ready to go. I have no doubt about that.”

Williams has played some box lacrosse this summer with the Six Nation Rebels of the Ontario Lacrosse Association. The Junior B-level club finished the regular season 20-0 and is currently in the midst of the playoffs. But after the summer, it will be back to business as usual for Williams, as he and the rest of his Cavalier teammates will begin to prepare for the 2015 season.

“He’ll probably stay at midfield I think,” Starsia said. “I think he can help us at both ends (of the field). He may be the best midfielder we have in the middle of the field in terms of seeing the field and attacking in transition. We graduated some guys, so I think that’s really where we’re going to need him. I think he stays in the middle of the field and he’ll probably play about as much as he can handle going forward.”