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Hard Times, Hard Play

Accident puts lacrosse in perspective, fuels motivation for All-American

Pete Emerson

Will Barrow laughs when he tells his favorite story about Ben Rubeor, fellow fourth-year co-captain on the lacrosse team.

Two years ago, during a season that would culminate in a 17-0 record and a national title, the Cavaliers were visiting Towson. They were winning handily but not playing with much intensity.

“In the middle of a timeout, while Coach [Dom Starsia] was talking, Ben just runs into the huddle with this crazed look on his face and just screams ‘Harder!’ as loud as he could,” Barrow remembers. “For a while during games that was pretty much all Ben would say. He’d just scream ‘Harder!’ to get people going.”

That stuck as the team’s rallying cry for the rest of the season—they had T-shirts made for the playoffs that simply said ‘Harder’ on the back—and it illustrates what makes Rubeor one of the best players in college lacrosse.

“I don’t think there’s ever been a time in practice when Ben didn’t do a drill his hardest,” Barrow says.

That explains why Rubeor is an All-American and short-listed for this year’s Tewaaraton Award (college lacrosse’s Heisman Trophy). But another story gets at the heart of Rubeor the person, his relationship to UVA and why playing harder isn’t just about goals and assists.

In the summer before his senior year of high school—two weeks after he had verbally committed to play lacrosse at UVA—Rubeor took a turn too fast in his car. It rolled three times, and his left forearm was crushed. He was unconscious briefly and awoke to see the bones of his forearm sticking through the skin.

Shortly after the accident, he got a call from Starsia.

“Coach said, ‘Ben, I don’t know what’s going to happen with this, but we will honor our commitment to you,’” Rubeor says. “That really reassured me of the type of person he is, that it’s not all about lacrosse. It’s about establishing relationships.”

Rubeor went through four surgeries, and at one point the doctors told him he might lose his arm below the elbow if they couldn’t get an infection under control.

“That’s when it really hit me. That was the first time I really kind of realized the implications of the whole thing,” he says. “That put lacrosse in perspective. It put a lot of things in perspective.”

But the doctors got the infection under control, and Rubeor went from spending eight months in a cast to being named the best high school player in Maryland after his senior year.

It’s that kind of toughness that has made Rubeor so successful at Virginia.

Ben Rubeor Pete Emerson

“He is just so much tougher than he looks,” Starsia says. “He’s a soft-spoken, thoughtful young guy, kind of scrawny looking. But there’s an edge about his game, a toughness that makes him the player he is.

“There are guys that lead from the first day. From the very first day, Ben’s example in the classroom and the playing field were exactly what you’re looking for in college sports.”

Rubeor started as a first-year student, was the second-leading scorer the following year on the national title team and now is in his second year as a captain. In addition to the lacrosse accolades, Rubeor was honored by the Alumni Association with the Gray-Carrington Award, which goes to a student “who excels in personal integrity, achievement, leadership and humility.”

None of Rubeor’s on- and off-field accomplishments surprise Barrow.

“It’s easy to look up to him and think of him as a true captain.”