Virginia men's lacrosse was in desperate need of an 'easy' win. After three straight one-goal losses, it looked like the Hoos were heading towards a similar result on Saturday evening at Klöckner stadium on a day full of Virginia sports.
Rutgers (2-1) broke into the scoring column first, and worked to a 6-3 lead before Virginia went on a 6-2 scoring run.
Third year Ryan Tucker had four goals in that run, including two in the last 32 seconds of the half. The last goal of the half was a thing of beauty. With 2.7 seconds on the clock, Mark Cockerton sent a pass rifling inbounds off the restart, hitting a streaking Tucker who buried it top left corner. Only five tenths of a second remained, and the goal gave Virginia a 9-8 lead and some much needed momentum.
Owen Van Arsdale opened scoring in the second half to extend the lead to two, but Rich Rambo (I know...awesome name) responded to keep the game close. Virginia answered, however, rattling off four straight goals to end the third quarter up 14-9.
After a James Pannell goal to push the lead to six, Rutgers responded with three straight, causing some Wahoo fans to shift uncomfortably in their seats as they feared a run by the visitors. In their previous three games, the Wahoos had given up runs of 9 (Loyola), 7 (Richmond), and 4 (Drexel) goals that made things too close for comfort.
It wasn't so tonight. Second year transfer from DIII Hamilton College Nate Menninger took the face off for the Hoos with 10:42 remaining the the 4th. By 10:36, he had won the face, sprinted downfield, and buried the shot with his long stick.
Menninger was instrumental in Virginia's success on the field, winning 9 of 15 faceoffs (60%), scoring a goal, grabbing four ground balls, and causing one turnover.
In fact, the faceoff unit as a whole got it together after the first quarter (1 of 8), finishing the final three quarters winning 16 of 25 (64%).
Virginia's offense was humming in the second half, and the Hoos shot an unreal 60 shots for the game. Their aggressiveness on ground balls and unsettled situations was unlike anything they had shown so far this season, which was reflected in the stats. The Hoos gathered 44 ground balls to Rutgers' 28, and disrupted the Scarlet Knight clears seven times, one of which resulted in a Mark Cockerton goal.
If it wasn't for Kris Alleyne in goal for Rutgers, this game would have been an even bigger blowout. He finished with TWENTY ONE saves for the game, and was basically unbeatable down low.
Ryan Tucker finished with five goals, a career high, and one assist. Not to be outdone, Mark Cockerton had four goals and a career high three assists to lead the team with seven points. Oh, don't forget Owen Van Arsdale who had two goals and four assists, and James Pannell finished with a quiet three goals and one assist.
Seven of the ten Virginia starters notched at least two points, and Chris LaPierre got his first goal of the season. Matt Barrett followed up an impressive game at Drexel with a solid 11 save game, and Scott McWilliams also got a save on a hustle play late. It was just a ridiculous game all around.
Most impressive was Tucker's 5 for 8 (62.5%) shooting, especially after struggling as a 24% shooter last season.
Check out the highlights from VirginiaSportsTV here. The one from Cockerton at the 2:53 mark is just so Canada.
Virginia's victory pushed them to 4-0, and they will have one more tune up game (Mt. St. Mary's on Tuesday) before they host Syracuse next Saturday. I think there's another big game that day, too...
Monday Motivation just keeps writing itself...