George Huguely, 22, of Chevy Chase, Md., was charged with first-degree murder within hours of the discovery of the body of 22-year-old Yeardley Love of Cockeysville, Md., in her off-campus apartment.
"We are confident that Ms. Love's death was not intended but an accident with a tragic outcome," attorney Francis Lawrence said Tuesday.
Love's body was found early Monday and police said it showed signs of physical trauma. An autopsy was ordered to determine the cause of death.
The Daily Progress newspaper in Charlottesville said a police affidavit indicated Huguely admitted to an altercation with Love and that "he shook Love and her head repeatedly hit the wall."
Investigators said they were told Huguely and Love, both seniors, had a previous relationship.
Huguely, a midfielder, had appeared in all of Virginia's 15 games this season, scoring four goals and assisting on three others. The Cavaliers men's team is 14-1 and ranked No. 1 in the nation.
Love, a defender, had played in 15 of her team's 18 games, starting three.