The 2018 Virginia Lacrosse season kicks off on Saturday at 1pm in Charlottesville. In order to look forward to the coming year, we have to first look back on Virginia’s performance last season. The Hoos were under a new head coach - Lars Tiffany - for the first time in a quarter century after UVA and long-time coach Dom Starsia parted ways.
So how did Tiffany’s first season at the helm of the Cavaliers go?
Virginia started the season ranked No. 16 and opened the season on the road at No. 6 Loyola. Just like previous matchups with the Greyhounds, it was decided by just a goal with the Hoos pulling off the 16-15 upset in front of a record-setting 680,000 unique viewers on Twitter (the first lacrosse game streamed via the platform). First years Dox Aitken (four goals) and Michael Kraus (two goals, three assists) started their careers with a bang.
Over the next four games, Virginia went 3-1 with decisive victories over Drexel, Siena, and High Point, but faltered 11-10 at Penn, making their record 4-1 heading into the highly-anticipated matchup with Syracuse.
The No. 11 Cavaliers jumped out to a huge lead on the No. 12 Orange, but Syracuse pulled off a huge rally (stop me if you’ve heard this before). Sergio Salcido’s goal with 15 seconds left gave the Orange their first lead of the game and kept the Hoos from the elusive ACC win they so desperately wanted.
Next up, Virginia flew cross-country for a matchup with Cornell in the Pacific Coast Shootout in a game that was one of the most thrilling of the season. The Hoos trailed 9-4 at the half, struggling to get any momentum going. Then, the second half started. Virginia stormed back and scored nine third-quarter goals to take a 13-11 lead going into the final 15 minutes. Zed Williams put Virginia up 18-17 with 15 seconds left, but Cornell responded off the face off with four seconds left to send the game to overtime. Williams came up in the clutch, scoring the game winner and capping off an epic contest to win 19-18.
A brutal two-game stretch followed as Virginia dropped back-to-back overtime losses to Notre Dame and Johns Hopkins in games that were hotly contested. The Hoos opened April with an impressive 8-7 win over the defensively-minded Richmond Spiders, then dominated Cleveland State 20-7.
Virginia struggled against UNC and Duke in games sandwiched around around a Robert Morris win, keeping the Hoos winless in the ACC for the third straight season. A second loss to Penn closed out the season for Virginia, giving them an 8-7 record.
The Cavaliers finished third in the nation for scoring offense at 14.4 goals per game, thanks to new head coach Lars Tiffany’s high-octane, up-and-down-the-field offense. On the flip side, they were 65th out of 69 teams in goals allowed per game with 13.3. Their average turnover margin was -6, which is another symptom of Tiffany’s system - he’s said as much himself.
That being said, in a season in which the team lost four games by one goal or less, two of which were in overtime, the margin for error was very slim. After several near-misses in 2017, 2018 could be the year in which the Cavaliers begin their return to the top of college lacrosse, and that will start with finally winning an ACC game.