Two years ago, Ken Clausen was a senior at the Hill School in Pottstown.
Like many high school seniors, Clausen began preparing for college. He was headed to Duke to play lacrosse. Or so he thought.
Then rape allegations against the Duke lacrosse team in 2006 rocked the nation, and, as the incident unfolded, Clausen was given the option to remain at Duke or look elsewhere. Initially, Clausen wanted to stay a Blue Devil, but when the possibility arose that the program could be cut, he decided to scan his options.
The heralded defenseman ultimately chose Virginia for its fast-paced style. After earning honorable-mention all-America recognition last season as a freshman, Clausen has guided the Cavaliers to the semifinals, where they will take on third-seeded Syracuse today.
"It's a dream come true," Clausen said. "This is what you play for."
With a semifinals win, Clausen would play for a national championship Monday, likely against a familiar team. Top-seeded Duke is heavily favored against No. 5 Johns Hopkins in the other semifinal matchup today.
That would mark the third time this season Clausen and the Cavaliers would face the Blue Devils and the fifth time in his career. All four meetings have been Duke victories, the latest an 11-9 loss in the Atlantic Coast Conference championship game.
The meetings place Clausen against players who were supposed to be his teammates.
"He's pretty mature to do the things he did and follow through," Virginia coach Dom Starsia said. "He got some criticism [for leaving Duke], but at the time he did it, they didn't have a program. I give him a lot of credit for the way he went about the process."
Clausen insisted that there are no hard feelings between him and the Blue Devils, that a mutual respect exists. Both sides understand the reason behind everything, he said.
"I don't think it's an issue anymore," Clausen said. "It happened. For me, at the time [Virginia] was the best opportunity. I don't look back and think, what if I was there. I think it's past us. It's two years past, and I think we've moved past.
"They're a really good team and really good guys."
While Clausen has moved on regarding the Blue Devils, he said the lacrosse world has not let go of the Duke lacrosse incident.
"I think there's still a little focus on it," Clausen said. "I think it might have something to do with the fifth-year players. I think after this season concludes, people will stop focusing on it."
Clausen is done focusing on Duke, at least while the Cavaliers prepare for Syracuse. That could change, of course, if Virginia and Duke meet Monday in the title game.
Brian Christopher and Matt Dolente each have played roles in fifth-seeded Johns Hopkins' pursuit of the national championship this season. Christopher, a junior from Springfield (Montgomery County) High, ranks seventh on the team with 10 points. Dolente, a freshman out of Malvern Prep, has scooped up 24 ground balls and won 45.1 percent of face-offs.
Home away from home.
The Barrage, the reigning Major League Lacrosse champions, will play each of their five home games at neutral sites outside Philadelphia.
With ownership in flux, MLL took operational control of the franchise for the 2008 season and decided to play games outside Philadelphia.
The team's "home" opener was played in Virginia Beach, Va., and another "home" game will be played at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, N.C. Locations for the three remaining home dates have not been announced.