While Virginia, the nation's top ranked lacrosse squad, was undefeated heading into Saturday night's matchup against Duke, no player on the team had previously had the pleasure of chalking up a victory over the Blue Devils. At the end of the night, however, none of that would change. No. 1 Virginia (11-1, 2-1 ACC) fell 13-9 to No. 5 Duke (11-3, 1-2 ACC) by a score of 13-9. It marked the third consecutive contest in which the Blue Devils knocked off a top-ranked Cavalier squad.
The streak continues to 8. It has been 6 years and eight games since the Cavaliers have been able to defeat this kryptonite of a team, with the last win posted in 2004 in Charlottesville. Virginia went undefeated to win the national championship in 2006, when Duke cancelled their program due to ...other extracurricular activities. Last weekend I had the pleasure of sitting next to Duke's head coach John Danowski (I should more accurately say, he stole my seat, which had my name on it. Luckily, this guy doesn't take no for an answer, and I made him move. It had MY name on it!). Had I known that his scouting would pay off tenfold, I would have worked harder to sabotage him, which is a real shame, because he was a perfect gentleman and a great guy.
"Yeah, I think our defense needs to buckle down a little bit. I think we've got some things to look at," Ken Clausen, a Lowe's Senior CLASS Award nominee, said. "Duke makes plays and they capitalize on possessions. ... We've got some things to work on I think. It's still early in the season. We have the ACC Tournament and playoffs coming up."
Virginia opened the game with relatively three quick goals, but gave up five unanswered before finally closing off the half with another 3-goal run. The narrow 6-5 halftime lead wasn't enough to save a disastrous third quarter in which Duke blasted off four straight goals to open the second half. While Virginia came back within two, it was too little, too late.
Ultimately, while Virginia led the shots and groundballs categories in the first half, Duke crushed them in these categories during the second half, outshooting the Hoos 21-11 and outscooping the Hoos 16-5 in the second half. Virginia is a team that averages just shy of 40 ground balls per game! Virginia won only two face-offs in the second half, to Duke's eight.
"There were two areas where I thought the game kind of turned," said Virginia head coach Dom Starsia. "It was in our clearing game - there was a lack of poise in the clearing game and in our play at the faceoff. You know, we won a couple of face-offs, but their ability to put the ball back down on the ground and pick it up themselves. I think that was the difference overall."
Despite tonight's loss, which has no implications other than ruining Virginia's dream of another undefeated season, the Cavaliers earned a No. 1 seed at the ACC Championship in Baltimore next week (also home of the lacrosse Final Four). The Wahoos will be taking on the fourth-seeded Blue Devils once again on Friday.