Virginia Survives Loyola in Season Opener

Geoff Burke-US PRESSWIRE

After leading 12-4 going into the 4th, Virginia needs overtime to seal the win.

On a bitterly cold night, the number seven ranked Virginia men's lacrosse team looked like they were cruising to a huge victory over the number twelve ranked Loyola Greyhounds. The Hoos had scored eight straight goals over the second and third quarters, taking a 4-4 game to a 12-4 blowout.

Virginia had hat tricks from both James Pannell and Mark Cockerton, two goals apiece from Rob Emery and Tyler German, and single tallies from Greg Coholan and Ryan Tucker.

Then the fourth quarter started. Loyola dominated on the faceoffs, winning six of nine, and rattling off goal after goal. Seven different players tallied scores, and all in different fashions. First year goalkeeper Matt Barrett, who finished with a solid eight saves, was barraged from all angles.  Defensemen who had been sharp all game looked a step slow.

Before fans could say Klöckner, the once eight goal #BEATEMDOWN had turned into a one goal deficit with 17 seconds to play.  Despite being manhandled at the X throughout the fourth quarter, Virginia FOGO Mick Parks came up big in the clutch with his third win of the stanza, setting the big play in motion.

Mark Cockerton got swarmed by Loyola defenders as the clock ticked to five seconds, four...

He passed to James Pannell with three, he's clearly going to shoot, right?

No, no shot. Pannell passed to Ryan Tucker with two...

And Tucker buried it, top left corner as time expired.

The referees held what seemed to be a 45 minute teleconference before referee Richard Tamberrino trotted to the midfield scorer's table and raised his hands like Touchdown Jesus, signifying the game was headed to overtime.

Parks picked up where he left off, easily winning the overtime faceoff and getting the ball to Virginia's attack to execute a play.  Rob Emery and Ryan Tucker got good looks at the cage, but both shots sailed wide. Pannell snagged the Tucker shot, moving to his right and rolling in front of the goal. As he rounded, James let loose a shot to the bottom right corner which Loyola goalie Pat McEnerney got a stick on. The ball trickled in, and another classic cardiac finish was in the books for the Wahoos.

Lynchburg transfer Joe Lisicky had a great game for Virginia, seeing a lot of time on the faceoff wings across from Chris LaPierre. His five ground balls were a team high for anyone not named Mick Parks.

Mark Cockerton proved once again that he is almost impossible to guard. After struggling in the first quarter and giving up two turnovers, Mark evaded double and triple teams to score three goals on five shots. He also accomplished all this against the formidable Joe Fletcher, who was named Wednesday as the only college player to make the 30 man roster of the US Men's National Team.

James Pannell finished with four goals (including the game winner) and one assist (on the game tying shot). His four goals in the game already put him over the halfway mark of what he contributed all last season (seven goals).

Loyola out-shot Virginia 41-31 and had only nine turnovers to Virginia's 12. The Cavaliers won the ground ball battle (35-32), faceoffs (15 of 28), and saves (8-4).  Virginia went 3-4 on their extra man opportunities, and converted on the clear 11-12 times.

The best stat for Virginia fans to note has to be their improved shooting percentage. With 14-31 shooting, the Cavaliers converted an impressive 45% for the game. To give perspective, Virginia finished last season shooting 26.4%, making just 179 goals on 678 shots. Tucker (24% shooter in 2013) scored two goals on three shots (67%) against Loyola.

Overall, the Cavaliers showed stretches of brilliance, but dug in when they had to. If the opener is any indication, Virginia fans are in for a wild ride this season. Check out the game ending heroics here.

UPDATE:

Tucker's tying goal and Pannell's overtime winner were featured on Sports Center last night just before the Top Plays. It's hard enough for lacrosse to make it on to the highlight show, let alone for a regular season, non-ESPN telecast, midweek game to make the cut, so...kind of a big deal. Huge props to Virginia Sports TV for their work making Sports Center. They have frequently been praised (and rightfully so) for their excellent video and quick turnaround.

You could say James Pannell's big brother Rob (you know, the former Tewaaraton winner at Cornell) was excited.

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