It was a rainy, dreary evening in Chapel Hill, but the No. 13 Virginia Cavaliers’ men’s lacrosse team was all smiles as they left with their first regular season ACC win of the season after a 15-12 victory over the Tar Heels.
The win was Virginia’s first regular season conference victory since 2014 - 19 games - and kept their postseason hopes alive.
Michael Kraus once again led all scorers with seven points on three goals and four assists, and Mike D’Amario (four goals) and Ian Laviano (three goals) each had a hat trick. Midfielders Matt Moore and Dox Aitken each chipped in two goals in the win.
First year goalkeeper Alex Rode was phenomenal in cage with 12 saves, and the Hoos won the ground ball (34-31), shot (38-34), and caused turnover (9-4) battles.
Matt Gavin led UNC with three goals - all in the second half - and William Perry added two goals. Virginia’s defense held Chris Cloutier without a goal, breaking a 31-game streak for the crafty attackman. UNC’s duo of Alex Bassil and Jack Pezzula combined for 15 saves in the loss.
North Carolina opened scoring with a goal by Cam Macri, but the Hoos responded with a goal by first year Ian Laviano. On the play, UNC goalie Bassil stopped an outside rocket from Aitken, but the ball trickled out in front of the crease to Laviano who grabbed the garbage and deposited it in the goal.
The lead was short lived as UNC retook the lead at 2-1 thanks to a quick stick on the doorstep from Andy Matthews.
Aitken tied things up at two on this extra man goal from downtown Chapel Hill:
Just can’t give space like this to Dox Aitken pic.twitter.com/T2Ka7clXwN— Dan Aburn (@Dan_Aburn) April 7, 2018
North Carolina was called for an illegal crosse, but the Tar Heels were able to wipe out the entire three-minute, non-releasable penalty thanks to keep away, a couple well timed shots, and an offsides penalty on the Hoos
Virginia got another from Aitken, this time assisted by the Hoos’ points leader Michael Kraus, to give them their first lead of the game. The Hoos would take the 3-2 lead into the break after the first quarter.
Once again, UNC scored first in the second quarter to knot things up at three, but back-to-back goals by Mike D’Amario put Virginia up 5-3. D’Amario’s second goal just needs to be seen to be believed:
A goal by Ryan O’Connell brought the Tar Heels back within one, but then the Hoos implemented a Cavalanche to end the quarter. Michael Kraus started things off with his first of the day, and then assisted D’Amario’s third of the day with 3:06 left in the second quarter. First year midfielder Matt Moore got on the board to double up the Heels, and Kraus capped the scoring barrage on a roll back where he switched hands before burying the outside shot.
Virginia led 9-4 at the half, led by Kraus with four points (two goals, two assists), D’Amario with three goals, and Aitken with two goals. Schwenk went 9-for-14 at the face off X, and Rode had an impressive start with six saves and three ground balls. As a team, the Hoos had more ground balls, doubling up the Heels 22-11. The Hoos also had six caused turnovers to UNC’s one, with first year Will Rock causing two in the first half.
Virginia had just three first half turnovers, well below half of their season average of just over 14 per game.
The Heels had four goals on 14 shots, all by different players. Bassil had an impressive first half in the cage for UNC with eight saves, but the Hoos unleashed 24 shots on him in the first half. Head Coach Joe Breschi switched to sophomore net minder Jack Pezzulla for the second half, hoping to spark his team.
Virginia won the opening face off in the second half, but wet field conditions and a tough pass led to a turnover and a long offensive possession for the Tar Heels. Rode came up with his seventh save of the game, but, after a successful clear, the Hoos turned it over again.
After another great defensive stand, this one ending with a caused turnover by Logan Greco, the Hoos got another chance to hit double digits on the scoreboard. Kraus once again found D’Amario, who finished yet another circus shot out front of the cage to put Virginia up 10-4 with 9:38 left in the third quarter.
UNC’s Matt Gavin would rattle off two straight - his first two goals of the season - from the exact same spot to make it 10-6 and put some pressure on the Hoos with 8:21 left in the third quarter.
Virginia’s Scott Hooper was called for a minute in the penalty box on a slash, giving UNC a man-up opportunity. Rode made a great save, but William Perry knocked down the outlet pass and was able to finish to make it 10-7 and give the Tar Heels some momentum.
Rode picked up his ninth and tenth saves, but a turnover on the offensive end yet again put the pressure on the defense with just over four minutes left. Virginia forced the turnover on the clear, and two good shots got better saves from Pezzulla. He corralled the second, but UNC was called for a push to give the ball back to Virginia, and Kraus made them pay with his third of the game.
The Hoos won the ensuing face-off, and Jared Conners found Laviano on the wing, who buried it in the upper right hand corner to put Virginia up 12-7 with 2:48 left in the third. Laviano got himself a hat trick of his own with 1:27 remaining, but Timmy Kelly responded to make it 13-8 and Gavin got his third of the quarter with seven seconds left to make it 13-9 at the final break.
Virginia started the fourth quarter man down thanks to a called cross-check, but first year Will Rock caused a turnover and got the Hoos the ball. The referees issued a stall warning on Virginia with 12:55 left, but it didn’t deter Moore as he somehow managed to get one past Pezzulla just three seconds later to make it 14-9.
A high shot by UNC was corralled by the Heels behind their own goal, and they were able to take advantage of the ensuing chaos to make it a four goal game once again. North Carolina, which came on strong in the second half from the face off X won the next one, but a Virginia defender stepped in front of a shot and the Hoos got another chance on offense to build their lead again.
Another shot clock was applied, and Kraus was unable to finish past Bassil, who re-entered the game in the fourth quarter. It looked like Chris Cloutier scored to make it a three-goal game, but he was called for being in the crease.
Virginia wouldn’t let this opportunity go to waste. Kraus found Mikey Herring rolling the crease, giving the Hoos a 15-10 lead 5:12 to play in the game.
North Carolina won the next face off, leading to a goal by long stick Jack Rowlett with 4:46 left in the game. Virginia finally got a face off, but the Heels got a big save by Bassil. Virginia would keep possession, however, thanks to an incredibly dirty cheap shot by Rowlett. He went to the penalty box for a minute, and the Hoos killed more clock up four. The refs put another shot clock warning on Virginia at the 2:07 mark, and the Hoos would turn it over with a violation at the 1:37 mark.
A questionable unnecessary roughness call against Logan Greco would give UNC a man-up opportunity, but even their late goal to make it 15-12 wouldn’t be enough.
Virginia improved to 9-3 on the season and 1-3 in the ACC. Next up, they host Duke on Saturday.