You know you've got something special going on when your team is 8-4 on the season and one of the favorites to reach the Final Four on Memorial Day weekend, and people are describing your season as a disappointment. Without the offense power of Steele Stanwick or the defensive acumen of Matt Lovejoy, the sixth-ranked Virginia Cavaliers fell to the ninth-ranked Duke Blue Devils, 13-11, in Durham this afternoon.
It's the 10th time in 11 games that this type of headline has been printed. Virginia's only win came last season in the ACC Tournament.
Virginia did a lot of things right today. They won the faceoff battle, 15 of 26, which has been a challenge all season. The Hoos outshot the Devils 39-38, though a number of those came in the final three minutes in an attempt to erase a 5-point deficit. Senior keeper Adam Ghitelman also had more saves (12) than Duke's sophomore keeper Dan Wigrizer (11).
But Wigrizer probably deserves the player of the game nod, as at least four of those saves were of shots coming from point-blank range. Wigrizer was simply on fire today.
Also putting up an amazing performance for the Devils was Robert Rotanz, who put together four goals, all coming from the second half. Duke's Zach Howell and Jordan Wolf also put up two goals a piece. Together, the three accounted for 11 points.
Coming up big for the Hoos was Colin Briggs, who had four unassisted goals of his own Steele Stanwick was out on a foot injury, but Chris Bocklet and Chris LaPierre each had two goals. One of LaPierre's came coast to coast, shaking off one Duke middie and shooting through several others. Rhamel and Shamel Bratton each had one goal a piece, and while Rhamel had 10 shots, only three were on goal.
So in a surprising turn of events, the team that was once ranked No. 1 in the country and was folks' top pick to make it to the championship game finds themselves at the bottom of the ACC standings. Duke is 3-0, while each of UNC, Maryland and Virginia are 1-2. Obviously, no small part of that is due to Stanwick's foot injury, Lovejoy's shoulder injury, and on-and-off "team violations" on the part of Shamel Bratton.
Duke and Virginia will face off next Friday in the first round of the ACC Championships. Last year, the Hoos topped Duke 16-12 in ACC tournament, going on to win the title. The game will be on at 7:30 p.m. and will be broadcast on theACC.com. The Championship Game will take place on Sunday at 3:30 and will be on Fox Sports or Raycom.
You'd have to expect all four ACC teams to make the NCAA Tournament's field of 16, but Virginia's performance in the upcoming ACC tournament would help their case for a higher seed.