Virginia learned a tough lesson on Sunday night against visiting North Carolina: when you don’t have the ball, it makes it hard to score. The Tar Heels won 23 of 30 faceoffs (77%) en route to a 15-12 victory, eliminating Virginia’s chance at making the ACC tournament - and effectively keeping them out of the NCAA tournament for the second straight year.
Joe French put the Hoos on the board first, but Virginia went 1-for-12 in the first half as North Carolina, the reigning NCAA champs, built a 9-2 halftime lead. If not for first year goalkeeper Griffin Thompson’s 11 first half saves, it could have been way worse for Virginia. With possession being so hard to come by, Virginia’s seven first half turnovers were magnified and the Hoos only managed 19 first half shots.
The Hoos came out fired up in the second half, and used a 6-2 third quarter to climb within three of the Tar Heels, 11-8, to enter the final 15 minutes, but were unable to get any closer. UNC goalkeeper Brian Balkan was outstanding in cage with 13 saves, and Stephen Kelly single-handedly frustrated Virginia face off specialists Jason Murphy and Luke Brugel.
“That was the most athletic team we’ve played,” Virginia coach Lars Tiffany said. “[Stephen] Kelly was outstanding winning the draw himself often, but when he didn’t, their wings were as athletic as we’ve faced.”
UNC utilized two long poles on the face off wings after they took a comfortable lead, something North Carolina coach Joe Breschi only introduced this week. As a result, the Tar Heels were able to out ground ball Virginia 50-28, despite the fact that the Hoos entered Sunday night’s game leading the country in ground balls per game.
Attackman Zed Williams, whose father passed away a week ago Friday, was in western New York with family until 4:30pm on Sunday. Williams arrived back in Charlottesville just in time for the game, missing only a few minutes of the first quarter. Zed finished with three goals and quite possibly the most ridiculous assist in field lacrosse history.
"SPORTSCASTER TOP 10, BOOK IT!" - @AnishESPN— Dan Aburn (@danaburn2423) April 10, 2017
A bounce pass from Zed Williams leads to a score from D'Amario! #LAXTop5 pic.twitter.com/sZZVFJWwGB
Second year midfielder Ryan Conrad also had a good game with three goals and an assist, including this shoe-shaking fake:
Ryan Conrad is a baaaaaaadddd man. Here come the Hoos! pic.twitter.com/v5qT8z9iHb— Dan Aburn (@danaburn2423) April 10, 2017
Dox Aitken had another highlight reel play in a tough game as he proved that he’s been eating his Wheaties all season:
"Weight room!" - Dox Aitken pic.twitter.com/F11VPnVkIa— Dan Aburn (@danaburn2423) April 10, 2017
Because of the loss, Virginia will miss the ACC tournament and will instead face Penn in the ACC/Ivy showcase game on April 29. The Hoos have now lost 13 straight ACC regular season games, and have just Robert Morris and Duke left on the schedule in the regular season. Lars Tiffany and the Cavaliers will have one last shot an an elusive ACC win as they head to Durham next weekend, but the Blue Devils have won 16 of the last 17 regular season matchups with Virginia (WOOF).