Another early scoring run by a U.Va. opponent, another loss for the Cavaliers. That was the story from Klockner Field in Charlottesville, where the Virginia men's lacrosse team lost to the Tar Heels of UNC-Chapel Hill 10-7.
Dynamic threat Marcus Holman paced the Heels with three goals and three assists, participating in 6 of UNC's 10 goals. Freshman Carolina keeper Kieran Burke was the statistical star of the game with an astronomical 23 saves on 30 shots on goal faced, a ridiculous 76% save percentage. Virginia attackmen Nick O'Reilly and Mark Cockerton each had three points on the day: two goals and an assist for O'Reilly, all three of Cockerton's points coming on goals.
After Carolina jumped out to a 4-0 lead with five minutes left in the first, Coach Starsia called a timeout to gather his troops. The Hoos responded well, notching three goals before the end of the period. By the time Carolina scored again to make it 5-3, the Heels had been held without a goal for 16 minutes of game play. The teams went into the half with UNC-CH leading 6-4 thanks to a Holman goal with two seconds left in the second period.
Carolina opened the second half early with a Davey Emala unassisted goal at 13:30. Jimmy Bitter pushed the lead to three at 4:38 before Rob Emery answered by converting a U.Va. extra-man opportunity at 3:13. Neither team would score for the first 10 minutes of the fourth quarter, but Cockerton pulled the Cavaliers back within two with a Matt White-assisted goal at 4:55. From there out, it was all Heels, twice beating a desperately pressing U.Va. defense to notch easy goals and put the game out of reach. Cockerton closed the scoring with a garbage-time goal with 37 seconds left.
Shot selection was the driving difference in the game. U.Va. outshot the Heels 51-32, but put only 58% of those shots on goal; 68% of Carolina's shots were on goal. And while Burke put up eye-popping numbers in the cage, almost all of his saves were routine grabs of Cavalier shots from distance.
There were a few points of obvious improvement for the Hoos. Against R.G. Keenan, one of the top face-off specialists in the country, U.Va.'s Mick Parks won 15 of the 20 draws. Parks was also clearly in Keenan's head, as Keenan was sent off for a thirty-second penalty in the first half after his third face-off violation; Keenan committed two more in the second half as well. Rhody Heller showed flashes of utter brilliance, stoning a few Jimmy Bitter and Marcus Holman attempts from right on his doorstep. First-year Dan Marino--stepping in for Heller after Heller committed a blatant holding penalty--saved the only shot he faced with a gorgeous kick of the leg. The Hoos were 2-4 on EMOs, a welcome sight to all Virginia lacrosse fans. And Virginia's poles continued to prove that yes, they are something truly special.
The loss pushes the Cavaliers' losing streak to five games, the longest in program history. In order to salvage any hopes of an NCAA Tournament appearance, Virginia will need to right the ship when they take on Duke, a program against which U.Va. has struggled in recent years. The Cavs and Blue Devils will square off in Durham in a Friday night affair; face-off is set for 6 PM on Friday, April 12.