For the first time in six years, the announcers at the end of the game declared, "Virginia beats Duke," with your final score being Cavaliers 16, Duke 12. It was the first semifinal of the ACC Men's Lacrosse Championship, a tournament that Duke has not lost in since 2005. Tonight's win snapped an eight-game losing streak to the Blue Devils, as Virginia used seven starters, including goalie Adam Ghitelman, to score at least one point. Chris Bocklet and Shamel Bratton both tallied a hat trick to lead the No. 2 and top-seeded Cavaliers to their 13th appearance in the ACC Championship.
"These conference games are always the toughest games we have," said Virginia head coach Dom Starsia. "It was great that we got a chance to face Duke, one of the toughest teams in the country, again just days after them beating us on our home field. Coming into this tournament, with four of the top five teams in the country – no matter who you play is going to be a tough contest. And today, we completely played our hearts out."
While Duke opened the contest with a 4-0 lead, the Cavaliers became ruthless, scoring five straight to take the lead back, a lead that would flip-flop back and forth until the intermission.
"I really was caught off-guard today, because I thought that we would be the ones to bring the momentum – especially coming off of our last game against them (loss at home)," Starsia said, when asked about being down 4-0 to start the game. "I was actually really glad when we got the first goal, let alone the next few."
There were at least two plays this game that, in my opinion anyway, should have made ESPN's SportsCenter Top 10 plays. The first came from Bocklet, who scooped up a groundball off a save of George Huguely's shot. It was nothing but grace, as he caught the ball, spinning on one ankle while falling, and slammed the shot in over his shoulder.
The second Top 10 play cames from goalie Ghitelman, who recorded his first goal of his career. Earlier in the game, he had run 3/4 the length of the field with the ball, and you could tell he wanted to fire that shot off so badly. But his team came before his pride, and he passed it off and returned to the crease. Later, in a play that certainly conserved more energy, he fired off a 55-yard shot the traveled the length of the field and made its way to the top of the net. It was Ghitelman's third point of his career, having been credited with two assists as well.
"The very first thing that I told our guys was that we came here to win a championship," Starsia said with regards to breaking the eight-game losing streak. "We have to actually move past this game and challenge ourselves to focus on the upcoming game. We are going to begin preparing for Sunday now."
The Blue Devils outshot the Cavaliers, 36-30, and earned the groundball edge, 38-33; however, the game-deciding factor in semifinal No. 1 came on face-offs won as UVa successfully had 22-of-32 face-offs taken, large in part to Brian McDermott’s 17-of-19 face-off won.
The win improves the Cavaliers to 12-1 overall (2-1 ACC) and advances them to Sunday’s championship game, in which they will play third-seeded Maryland, who defeated second-seeded North Carolina tonight 13-5. The game starts at precisely 3:38 p.m. on Sunday.