Schoeffel shines: Starsia reject stars in Duke victory
Duke lacrosse player C.J. Costabile is getting some well-deserved attention for his lighting-fast goal in the Blue Devil’s 6-5 overtime win against Notre Dame in the 2010 NCAA men's lacrosse championship yesterday, but without a certain Charlottesville native and Covenant School alum, Costabile may never have had such a shot at glory.
Midfielder Steve Schoeffel, a fifth-year senior on the Duke squad and son of local physicians Cindy and Mark Schoeffel, scored two goals in yesterday’s contest.
"It was very exciting," says Cindy Schoeffel. "I'm afraid I don’t have much of a voice. This is the fourth time we've been there, and it was very thrilling to finally be hugging each other."
Indeed, while Duke fans embraced, Virginia coach Dom Starsia may have been kicking himself.
According to Cindy, who played field hockey at the University of Wisconsin, her son grew up a Virginia fan, but when he met Starsia during Virginia camps, the coach told him he was a good player but "not what I'm looking for."
"Steve is small and fast," says Cindy, "and I guess Dom was looking for football players who played lacrosse."
But then Duke coach Mike Pressler saw something in the young man. After Steve attended Duke's camps, the Schoeffels received weekly letters from Pressler.
"They were very nice about recruiting him," says Cindy. "Mike told us it was not what Steve was now as a player, but what he would become."
However, heading off to play lacrosse at Duke in 2006 had its challenges. Pressler resigned following allegations that Duke players had raped a stripper they had hired for a party, allegations eventually proven to be false. In fact, Steve Schoeffel was able to play this season only because he was one of the players allowed a fifth year of eligibility by the NCAA after the 2006 season ended in the wake of the “Duke lacrosse scandal.” While Pressler was the one who wanted Schoeffel, new coach John Danowski became the one to help him mature as a player.
"That was a very difficult year," says Cindy of the 2006 season, "but I think it helped the boys to consider that everything they do matters"–- a lesson that Duke's athletic department had to learn as well, she says.
Ironically, Schoeffel also helped take down number-one ranked Virginia in the semi-final match-up May 29, during perhaps the Virginia program’s darkest days.
"We're very sad for both families," says Cindy, reflecting on the murder of a female UVA lacrosse player allegedly by a member of the UVA men's squad. Like the aftermath of the "Duke scandal" that her son and their family had to endure, she hopes some good will come of the tragedy.
For a time, Schoeffel played with another Covenant star on the Duke squad, midfielder Bo Carrington. In 2008, the Daily Progress interviewed them both about the Duke rape scandal. On the other side of the field yesterday, Schoeffel faced off against another local standout, Max Pfeifer, a sophomore midfielder for the Irish who was a star at Western Albemarle.
Coverage of the game by the New York Times includes a great shot of Schoeffel celebrating after the victory, which was Duke’s first NCAA title.