A gorgeous day on the banks of the Delaware River turned sour for Cavalier fans as the stingy defense of the Notre Dame lacrosse team ended Virginia's chances to repeat as National Champions. The Irish would stretch the lead to four goals in the fourth quarter and ended up with a 12-10 victory when the final horn sounded.
The game ended the storied career of Cavalier Senior Steele Stanwick, but even in a loss the star went out with more of a bang than a whimper. Stanwick had two goals and five assists for seven total points. Interestingly, all five of his assists went to different players - Chris Bocklet, Rob Emery, Owen Van Arsdale, Colin Briggs and Matt White. His 80 points this season is second all-time at Virginia, trailing only Doug Knight's 86 points.
Notre Dame started the game quickly, taking a 2-0 lead less than four minutes into the first period. But the Cavaliers would keep it close, tying the game at 3, taking a 4-3 lead for a few minutes in the second quarter and tying it at 6, 7 and 8.
But that's when things started to turn. With 7:53 left to go in the fourth period, Virginia's Harry Prevas hit the stick of Notre Dame's Conor Doyle and the ball went flying out of bounds. It appeared that it should be Virginia's ball, but referee gave it to the Irish. The announcers said it went off his hip, but even on the replay I can't tell if that was true.
Twelve seconds later, Notre Dame's Ryan Foley made a shot unassisted from about 10 yards in front of the cage. On the play, Cavalier defender Scott McWilliams made contact with Foley after the shot. The hit was not vicious, it was with a shoulder (didn't lead with his head) and it appeared that a Notre Dame player held his stick leading to the hit being later than intended. But there was contact to Foley's head that appeared to knock him unconscious for a while and the Irish player was taken off the field on the stretcher after a tense fifteen minutes or so.
The Irish fans were livid that there was no flag and were saying lots of negative things about the Cavaliers in the aftermath. I have to imagine that it also had an impact on players on both teams. The Irish would score three more goals in a row to take a 12-8 lead and then would hang on as Virginia went on a rally over the last two minutes.
The Cavaliers might have had an earlier chance at getting back into the game, but a clear make up call came into play on an Illegal Body Check call on Matt Lovejoy with 3:12 left in the fourth. During a scrum near the sideline, Lovejoy was given what Quint Kessenich (not known for being nice to Virginia) called "a makeup call of the highest magnitude." At most, I could see them calling it a loose ball push. But for it to be a non-releasable penalty was atrocious.
For the record, it is my understanding that all tests were good for Ryan Foley and he was able to fly home with his teammates.
The Cavaliers end their season 12-4 while the Irish (13-2) advance to face Loyola in the semifinals.
I'll have some more editorial thoughts on some things from this game later in the week.