Conrad provides UVA's irreplaceable spark

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (CBS19 SPORTS) -- Few in the game of lacrosse provide as much energy and effort as Virginia's Ryan Conrad, where coaches can breathe easy once the ball is in No. 22's control.

"We're just so lucky to have one man on the field, you give him the ball we can all relax as Virginia lacrosse fans and Virginia coaches and Virginia players," Virginia men's lacrosse Coach Lars Tiffany said about the two-time captain Conrad, "Okay, it's our ball plus we might even score because he's that talented."

That is never more true than when the ball is up for grabs, whether in a game or practice.

"Just giving everything I have to whatever the team needs, I try to do that my best," Conrad said, who is second on the team in ground balls this season, "Something that Coach Tiffany says is he wants us to be as selfish as possible with the ground balls and I think I try to take that to heart as much as possible."

But that spark went out last season, when Conrad went down with a knee injury against Syracuse missing most of the season and creating an all new challenge.

"The coaches really challenged me to be more an off the field presence and a more vocal leader because that's really the only way I could do it. I wasn't able to play with the guys," Conrad said.

"He was no longer eligible to play because of the injury," Tiffany said, "But he was eligible to lead and it gave him a lot of practice there and how to communicate with his teammates and to be a better leader."

As a new season arrived so did a new mindset for Conrad in the wake of missing significant games for the first time in his career.

"When I came back in the fall, I was just head on I'm going to 100 percent every single rep, every single day," Conrad said, "I'm just going to treat it just like my last day of lacrosse."

But the days and plays have been plentiful for Conrad, leading his team to an ACC Championship and setting the stage for the generation behind him.

"He's a do it all midfielder, he does everything that our position can offer, so it's definitely something that I want to strive to be," junior midfielder Dox Aitken said, "You can kind of see what he's doing for our program and try to do it yourself."

As his days in a Virginia uniform come to an end, Conrad is going for it one last time...

"This is my last chance and this is our team's last chance and these select guys last chance," Conrad said, "We're really excited to go for the journey and I think if we continue having trust in ourselves and the coaches, we're going to have some great success."

The Cavaliers start their NCAA Tournament play Saturday at 7:30 p.m. with Robert Morris coming to Klöckner Stadium in the first round.

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