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The Big Preview: Virginia at Duke

Hoos have one last chance to break ACC drought this season.

2014 NCAA Division I Men's Lacrosse Championship - Semifinals Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

So, last weekend didn’t go as planned against North Carolina. With Virginia’s 15-12 loss to the Tar Heels, the Hoos will miss out on the ACC tournament, effectively ending their chance at earning an at large bid to the NCAA tournament. The Hoos are currently 8-5 (0-3, ACC) in new head coach Lars Tiffany’s first season, with four of their five losses coming by one goal (two in overtime). Virginia has hung with every team they’ve played, with the exception of UNC where the Hoos struggled to even get possession.

This week, things don’t get any easier as Virginia is in Durham to take on the bane of the Cavaliers’ existence in Duke.

Warning, the following stats should be considered graphic in nature.

  • Virginia has lost 16 of the last 17 matchups with Duke.
  • Virginia’s last regular season win over Duke was in 2004, when the Hoos won 13-4 in Charlottesville.
  • Duke has taken 11 straight regular season games (the two teams did not meet in Virginia’s undefeated 2006 national champion season due to the alleged - and later proven false - allegations against Duke’s team).
  • Virginia last beat Duke in 2010 when the Hoos won 16-12 in the ACC tournament.
  • Duke has won four of the last five ACC tournament matchups between the last two teams (2007, 2008, 2009, and 2011).
  • Duke ended Virginia’s NCAA tournament hopes in 2010 with a 14-13 NCAA semifinal win. The Blue Devils would go on to win their first NCAA lacrosse title with a 6-5 (overtime) victory over Notre Dame.

It hasn’t been pretty, folks. The average game score over the last 17 games (since 2005) is 15-9 in favor of Duke. Last season, Virginia fell 14-8 to the Blue Devils in Charlottesville. The closest game in the last five years was a two goal loss, 17-15, in Charlottesville in 2014.

All that being said, today is a new day. The Hoos have nothing to lose, and they come into today’s matchup averaging 14.9 goals and 9.7 assists per game (both good for second in the nation behind Albany). Duke, who is 9-3 on the season and has wins over Richmond, Loyola, Notre Dame, and North Carolina, averages 12.5 goals and 7.9 assists per game.

On offense, Justin Guterding leads the team in points with 58 (31 goals, 27 assists), while Jack Bruckner leads the team in goals with 33. Freshman Joey Manown has 19 goals on the season, and Brad Smith and Kevin Quigley each have 13 goals. The Blue Devils average 36 shots per game. Virginia’s defense had a long game last weekend against North Carolina as they struggled to hold off the talented Tar Heels for long (and frequent) possessions. However, over the last couple games, the set six on six defense has improved. Where the Cavaliers need to slow down opponents is in the fast break, something they’ve struggled with all season.

Defensively, Virginia relies heavily on fifth year Tanner Scales as a lockdown defender. My pick to keep your eye on, however, is Scott Hooper, who leads the team with 32 caused turnovers, no turnovers, and no penalties. He’s a physical defender, but is technical and always plays controlled. First year goalkeeper Griffin Thompson has been incredible over the last couple games with 16 saves against UNC and a career high 18 saves against Robert Morris. Thompson has improved his save percentage to 51% (it started around 36%). With his 18 save performance, Thompson tied the first year save record held by Virginia legends Rodney Rullman and Tillman Johnson. Thompson will be crucial in this matchup if the Hoos want to steal a win, and will need upwards of 15 saves to do so.

First year Michael Kraus leads the Cavaliers in goals (33) and points (54) and needs just five points to pass Steele Stanwick’s first year points record (58) he set in 2009. Zed Williams is second on the team in points with 48 (23 goals, 25 assists), and Mike D’Amario (29 goals) and Dox Aitken (28 goals) round out Virginia’s 20+ goal scorers. The Hoos average 47 shots per game, and will need to take high percentage shots against Duke’s Brendan Fowler who saves 52% and lets in just over 8.5 goals per game.

Hands down, the biggest key to the game will be Virginia’s ability to beat Duke off the ground and at the faceoff X. Duke’s Kyle Rowe is 135-for-235 (57%) from the X on the season, while Virginia’s duo of Jason Murphy and Luke Brugel are both averaging 55.7% from the X. Possession is key, and the Hoos can ill afford to fall into a hole against the Blue Devils.

The Hoos and Devils face off at 1pm, and the game will be streamed by ACC Network Extra on ESPN3.