Virginia has not won at Duke since 2003. For three quarters of the game last night, it looked like the Wahoos were finally going to get that monkey off their back.
The offense has taken a lot of flak over the past few weeks, and rightfully so. In the previous five losses (Cornell, Ohio State, Johns Hopkins, Maryland, and North Carolina), the attack shot a measly 21%. Over the last three games, they shot an abysmal 15%. So, when Virginia came out of the gate with a goal from Matt White and then took the lead 2-1 on a Nick O'Reilly tally, things looked like they could be different for the Hoos.
For the first time since the March 16th match with Ohio State (which was also the last time Matt White scored a goal), the Cavaliers had a lead. Think about that for a minute. The Virginia Lacrosse team had not even held a lead in a game for three weeks.
Duke scored three straight to take the lead 4-2, but Virginia showed no backing down, with White notching his second goal in the first frame to bring the Cavaliers back to 4-3. Josh Dionne for the Blue Devils, who finished with five goals on the evening, got another past second year goalie Rhody Heller, but the Virginia midfield stepped up and closed out the first quarter with back to back goals from midfielders Ryan Tucker and Rob Emery.
The Wahoo midfield, who had been struggling mightily during the losing streak, combined for four of Virginia's five goals in the opening frame, giving hope to desperate fans.
Quarter two commenced much like the first stanza ended: with a flurry of goals. Duke rattled off three straight from Dionne, Josh Lawson, and the highly talented Jordan Wolf, but Virginia never seemed rattled. For the first time in a long time, the played aggressively and confidently.
Owen Van Arsdale and Mark Cockerton got quick back-to-back scores to bring it to within one at 8-7 before Duke's Jake Tripucka stretched the lead back to 9-7. Matt White got the hat trick with an extra man goal as he channeled Chris Bocklet a la 2011 with an inside shot.
With 1:45 left in the half, Mark Cockerton made one of the most spectacular plays of the season. After losing the ball in an aggressive double team by the Duke defenders, he kept his eye on the ball and managed to snag the deflection, dip inside two defenders, avoid two more, and from the middle of the crowd, sling a side armed beauty just inside the pipe past Kyle Turri. It was incredible, and tied the game.
In the first half, Virginia had 23 ground balls to Duke's 18, were just under 50% on face offs, shot an impressive 43%, and Heller had seven saves in goal in a 9-9 tied game. Things did not look too bad.
Ryan Tucker, who had a goal and an assist in the first quarter, came out with a sling on his shoulder for the second half. He had been hit pretty hard on his goal scoring play (a fantastic diving play after rolling the crease), and fell hard on a nasty looking trip by a Duke defender early in the second quarter. It appeared as if he had landed funny on his arm.
Despite losing a starting midfielder, Virginia came out of the locker room blazing in the second half, scoring four straight goals to take a 13-9 lead. Cockerton had three in the barrage of goals, and the Virginia squad looked unstoppable. Duke mounted a mini rally, scoring three straight on tallies from Case Matheis, Tripucka, and Josh Offitt. With 5:16 left in the third, Virginia held a slim 13-12 lead.
Rob Emery scored his second goal of the day, an outside bomb that painted the top right corner of the net, with 27 seconds left in the third, giving the Hoos a two goal lead.
Then the wheels fell off. Duke's junior faceoff man, Brendan Fowler, entered the evening with an unbelievable 65% win rate (195 of 299). Up until the fourth quarter, Virginia's Mick Parks had been holding his own winning 15 of 29 faceoffs (52%). Fowler was a perfect 9 of 9 in the pivotal fourth quarter, giving Duke possession for what felt like the entire fifteen minutes.
Duke rattled off seven goals in 11 minutes, getting contributions from multiple players and Dionne netting three in the streak. Virginia could not snag a groundball to save their lives, and the Cavalier players had problems all night keeping their footing, causing multiple turnovers or disrupting their play frequently.
The image of 4th year captain, Chris LaPierre, bent over with his hands on his knees watching as his team lost control of the game, perfectly summed up the evening and the season. He has been sidelined with a knee injury all season.
Virginia finished the game with two straight goals from White and Cockerton, but without possession throughout the quarter, it was a lost cause.
Rhody Heller finished the game with a career high 16 saves and fell to 0-5 on the season.Mark Cockerton had six goals for the night, and Matt White contributed four goals and two assists. Nick O'Reilly notched a quiet two goals and four assists.
If you had told me Virginia would shoot 40%, Heller would have 16 saves, and they scored 16 goals, I would have been 100% sure they won the game in a dominating fashion. A team like Duke cannot have the ball that much. They are chock full of fantastic players, and they work well on attack together. They held Virginia to a 75% clear rate, well below their average.
Surprisingly, only one stall was called in the game, coming against Duke late in the fourth quarter. There were several times that could have warranted a stall throughout the game, on both teams.
This game has effectively eliminated Virginia from post-season play, although if they win out they would still meet the .500 criteria to be considered.
Since the Hoos are 0-3 in conference play, they will face number one Maryland in the first round of the tournament in a couple weeks. This team has so much talent and puts so much effort in each week, but they just cannot seem to get the pieces to align.
Virginia faces no. 20 Bellarmine at Klockner Stadium next weekend, a game that could help pad their chances to make a run at the post season.
Check out the stats from last night's game here.