Virginia head coach Dom Starsia and junior attackman Steele Stanwick each made a big statement Saturday afternoon as the No. 10 and 7th-seeded Virginia Cavaliers upset the No. 2, 2nd-seeded Cornell Big Red, behind an offensive barrage in the second quarter. The 13-9 win gave Coach Starsia his 327th career victories, earning him the distinct honor of the most head coaching wins at a Division I school.
It's been an up and down season for the Cavaliers, who started the season as a unanimous pick to reach the Final Four on Memorial Day weekend. Midway through the season, the Cavaliers' season looked like it was spiraling downhill, and when the end of the regular season saw the dismissal of Shamel Bratton and the indefinite suspension of Rhamel Bratton, Virginia's top midfielders, Memorial Day weekend seemed nothing if not distant.
The beauty of the NCAA Championships is that a team just needs to string together four wins at the opportune time to bring home the hardware. Behind the leadership and offensive firepower of Tewaaraton Trophy finalist Steele Stanwick, the Hoos are halfway there.
The Hoos fell behind early on Saturday, down by as much as 4-1 in the first quarter. But a sudden flurry of goals gave Virginia a 9-0 run, heading into the locker room at the half up 10-4. Cornell would come back to within three, down 12-9 with just 1:02 to go in the game.
Stanwick would finish the day with seven points, including a hat trick and four assists. Fellow junior attackman Chris Bocklet also had a hat trick of his own. Sophomoresand Nick O'Reilly had two goals apiece, while Rob Emery, Colin Briggs and Chris LaPierre each contributed one.
"One thing we learned is to never give up," Bocklet said. "We learned a lot from [the game against Cornell earlier this season]. We came out here ready to play and we were excited about it. We knew what the stakes were."
Senior goalie Adam Ghitelman had 13 saves on the day and picked up his 48th career win, passing former Syracuse goalie Jay Pfeifer for No. 4 all-time in NCAA Division I history.
Cornell's Tewaaraton Trophy finalist and frontrunner Rob Pannell was held to three points, with one coming late in the third quarter and one late in the fourth.
"We tried to do the best job we could to get back in the game," Pannell said after the game. "We had a lot of opportunities where we could have scored and I think Adam Ghitelman played great, to his credit. He made a lot of saves. We couldn't get any run going."
Coach Starsia expressed how great it felt to have reached his 327th win, but not for the reasons one might think.
"I'll tell you one thought that occurred to me," Starsia said. "‘We're going to talk about this for 10 months before we break this record' if we hadn't won this game. I thought about that earlier today. I thought, ‘We're going to be talking about this all winter.' To have it be at this moment, in this game, against that opponent, in this location, in the NCAA quarterfinals, there really couldn't have been a better setting for all this."
"It's an honor," senior longstick midfielder and team leader Bray Malphrus said, "and I'm grateful that I was part of it. This is a tribute to Coach Starsia. He spoke nothing of it the past few weeks. We figured out through the media that he was about to break the record, but no one on the coaching staff made mention of it. I think that's a tribute to who he is. He was very modest about it, and never brought it up once."
Virginia will go for win No. 328 and a spot in the NCAA Championship Game on Saturday against 4th-ranked and 6th-seeded Denver, who upset 3rd-seeded and 7-time national champions Johns Hopkins. Face-off is scheduled for 4:00 p.m. in Baltimore, and the game will be televised on ESPN2.