A top-ten preseason ranking. A Pannell on attack, a midfield full of snipers, and a long-stick crew that could bring the thunder. Yea, 2014 looked like it was going to be a good year.
And for the first six weeks of the season, it was the best of times. The Hoos started 2014 with a thrilling 14-13 overtime win against Loyola, the defending NCAA champions. Over the next two games, Dom Starsia probably aged two years. Virginia kept winning, but each of the first 3 wins was a one-goal affair.
After dispatching Rutgers and Mt. St. Mary's in more routine fashion, Virginia opened its ACC schedule at home against Syracuse. Just like the women's tennis team and the men's basketball team all did that fine March day, the good orange beat the bad Orange. With a 17-12 victory, Virginia moved to #2 in the polls and 1-0 in the ACC.
But that's when the trouble began.
Cornell upset the Hoos in Ithaca, 12-9. As the basketball team stormed to an ACC Tournament title in Greensboro, a winter storm in South Bend sent the Notre Dame-Virginia lacrosse game indoors—where the Irish promptly took the Hoos to the woodshed, winning an 18-9 game that wasn't even that close.
Still standing a respectable 6-2 for the year, Virginia returned home to defend its home turf against rival Johns Hopkins. A back-and-forth game saw fourth-quarter heroics from young Ryan Lukacovic, whose two late goals tied the game and sent it to overtime. One Greg Coholan rifleshot later and Virginia took back the Doyle Smith Cup with an 11-10 overtime win.
The Hoos followed up the Hopkins victory with an under-the-lights trouncing of VMI before beginning the meatgrinder ACC season in earnest. Over the next two weeks, Virginia—now ranked 8th—played games against the #2, #4, and #5 teams in the country.
Maryland was up first, and stifled the Virginia offense in College Park. The good guys managed only 9 shots in the second half and left Maryland with a 9-6 defeat.
UNC-Chapel Hill was up second and gave the Hoos a taste of the medicine Virginia had given Hopkins. With 3:38 to go in the game, Virginia stood ahead 10-8. At 2:33, Steve Pontrello tied the game for the Heels. Only five seconds later, Carolina faceoff specialist R.G. Keenan took the faceoff all the way to the cage and put UNCCH up 11-10. The Hoos couldn't muster another goal, and fell to 1-3 in the ACC.
Last on the ACC schedule was Duke, the proverbial monkey on Virginia's back the past several seasons. A 6-4 Virginia lead early through the second quarter evaporated into a 10-7 halftime deficit. Duke began to blow things open in the fourth quarter, staking a 17-12 lead with 6:24 to play. Despite three goals in 75 seconds from the Cavaliers, Duke's lead held up and dropped Virginia to 1-4 in conference play.
The Hoos won a tidy-up game against Bellarmine to close the regular season on a high note. But with the newly aligned ACC, the conference tournament had no room at the inn for the two teams at the bottom of the standings. Virginia and Carolina played in the tournament's "Showcase Game," with the Hoos getting revenge for the earlier heartbreaker in Chapel Hill, 13-11.
With a 10-5 record in the country's most difficult lacrosse conference, Virginia snagged the final seed line in the NCAA Tournament. In its second rematch in as many games, the Hoos hosted Hopkins (say that three times fast) in the tournament's opening weekend. This time though, it was the Blue Jays who ended up on the winning end. The 14-8 loss ended Virginia's season far too early for any UVa fan's liking.