Things got off to a slow start, but the No. 11 Virginia Cavaliers got their first win of the season with an 11-8 victory over the Lehigh Mountain Hawks. Lehigh led by two at the half in a game that was moved forward a day to accommodate for incoming inclement weather, but Virginia outscored the Mountain Hawks 7-2 in the second half to secure the victory.
Michael Kraus led the Hoos with four goals and one assist, and Dox Aikten added two goals and two assists to the cause. Second year goalie Alex Rode had a strong day in cage with 11 saves, and the defense combined for 10 caused turnovers.
Justin Schwenk struggled at the face off X, winning just 8-of-23, but the Hoos forced 22 turnovers and hassled Lehigh on clears all day (11-for-18).
Virginia’s offense struggled early with Lehigh’s zone, but went on a 4-0 run that spanned halftime as the Hoos took the lead for good. “In the first half, they were making more hustle plays, and I think offensively their zone kind of struck us a little bit,” Aitken said post game. “They were forcing us to spin the ball a lot and look for a great look instead of a good look.”
Once they settled in, Lehigh struggled to get clean looks at the clear or the cage as Virginia took and maintained control.
“We stopped fouling. That was big,” said Head Coach Lars Tiffany after the game. “We’re a physical team...we want to get after it on the ride. We take a lot of pride in our riding here.” Tiffany was pleased with his team’s ability to have their second game in a row with seven “fails” (failed clears).
Rode started the game with a save on the opening possession from the Mountain Hawks, but promptly turned it over on the clear attempt that sailed high over Kraus’s head. After getting the ball back on a hustle play to the sideline after a Lehigh shot, Virginia’s offense had three good looks at the cage before turning it over as the newly-added shot-clock ticked through zero.
Second year Matt Moore got the scoring started from outside on Virginia’s next possession, ripping one low past Lehigh’s Spence in cage. Lehigh was unable to take advantage of a man up situation created by an unnecessary call against defender Kyle Kology as Rode got saves No. 2 and No. 3. and then legged it out to the end line for possession.
First year Jeff Conner notched his first collegiate career goal off of a broken play to put the Hoos up 2-0, but Lehigh’s Rai opened the scoring for the Mountain Hawks. Virginia’s Will Rock was flagged for a cross-check on the play, sending him to the box and giving Lehigh an opportunity to even the score on their second man-up of the day.
Unlike Lehigh’s first EMO, the Mountain Hawks took advantage of the second one to knot the score at two with 4:06 left in the first quarter. Despite winning their third face off in four attempts, Lehigh couldn’t build on their growing momentum as Kology forced a turnover and the Hoos successfully cleared the ball.
After a turnover by Virginia and a hectic clear by Lehigh, first year defender Cade Saustad caused a turnover and gave the Hoos a chance to take the lead late in the first. Kraus was unable to convert at the buzzer, leaving the two teams knotted up 2-2 after 15 minutes of play.
Aitken’s shot was blocked by Spence, but the third year midfielder was flagged for an illegal body check (a non-releasable two minute personal foul). Lehigh scored on their next possession to take a 3-2 lead, and took a time out after winning the ensuing face off. Out of the timeout, Lehigh easily got behind the defense, but Rode came up with two quick saves to stop the bleeding at one goal and give Virginia a chance to tie things up once again.
Kraus made a gorgeous spin move to get open, but hit Spence with his shot and Lehigh gained possession once more. After forcing another turnover, Virginia had yet another chance to tie the game up, but Laviano’s shot was checked out of his stick and the Mountain Hawks took it the other way for the clear. Alex Tumminello doubled up the Hoos at 4-2 off of a worm-burner shot with 8:28 left in the second quarter.
Lehigh made it 5-2 on a lefty shot on the move from the wing, putting Virginia back on their heels and dominating ground balls, face offs, and shots. Virginia finally stopped Lehigh’s five-goal run with a score from Laviano to make it 5-3 with 6:40 to play in the half.
A strong defensive stand from Virginia led to another save by Lehigh led to another called penalty on Virginia — this one a slash on Jared Conners —that ended in another goal for the Mountain Hawks. Kraus cut the deficit back to two with a blistering shot from outside that hit the top corner with 2:11 left in the half.
Virginia was unable to get any closer than 6-4 in the first half, despite forcing a turnover and having a shot right before the two teams headed into the locker room at half time. Lehigh held an advantage in shots (24-16), face offs (8-4), and ground balls (28-20), but Rode’s seven saves topped Spence’s four.
The Hoos had a chance to cut into the lead on the first possession of the second half, but couldnt get it done. Lehigh got another look at an extra man opportunity, but Rode’s eighth save of the day gave Virginia the ball back. Aitken burst into the score sheet with a goal through the legs of Spence, making it a 6-5 Lehigh advantage with 10:38 to play. Another man up opportunity for Lehigh ended with another save from Rode,
Back-to-back goals from Kraus put Virginia ahead for the first time since it was 2-1 in the first quarter.
Neither team was able to score for the final 6:03 of the quarter, sending Virginia into the final 15 minutes with a slim 7-6 lead. Virginia didn’t wait long to extend their lead as Schwenk won the first face off of the fourth quarter and found Laviano for the top shelf goal.
Lehigh answered 1:07 later with their first goal of the second half to cut Virginia’s lead to 8-7 with 13:43 to play. Good defense from the Hoos gave Virginia a chance to build their lead back out, but Spence notched back-to-back highlight reel saves and the refs called the ball out of bounds in Lehigh’s favor.
The Virginia defense forced another turnover — their seventh of the game — but once again the Mountain Hawk defense came up with a stop. Rode’s 11th save of the game kept Lehigh from knotting things up at eight, and first year defender Cade Saustad picked off a pass to get possession back for the Hoos.
Moore looked to have given Virginia a little extra breathing room, but it narrowly missed to the outside of the cage. Another forced turnover in transition gave the Hoos the ball back, and Kraus hit a pipe that drew a loud gasp from the Klöckner Stadium crowd. Lehigh was called for their first penalty of the game — a slash — with 6:43 to play. Virginia promptly turned it over, but Saustad got a check on the Lehigh shooter’s stick to change trajectory and Virginia backed the shot up.
On the ensuing possession, Kraus made it 9-7 with his fourth goal of the game and 4:07 left to play. Off the face off, Schwenk found Jared Conners in transition for a wide open shot, but Lehigh got it right back with a quick goal of their own to make it 10-8 with 3:41 to play.
Aitken once again pushed Virginia’s lead to three with 2:16 to play thanks to a bounce shot off-hip of the keeper with under 10 seconds on the shot clock. Lehigh won the next face off, and took a timeout, but John Fox scooped the ground ball and took it the other way to give Virginia a chance to run some clock.
Virginia turned the ball over with just over 30 seconds left, but Greco intercepted a pass and the Hoos were able to hold on for the 11-8 win.
Next up, Virginia has little time to rest as they welcome High Point on Monday. The Panthers have already upset No. 2 Duke this season, so the Hoos cannot afford to rest on their laurels. “I think these quick turnarounds are good for us and really prepare us for the end of the season,” Kraus said of the Hoos upcoming game. “When you have a quick turnaround, you really focus on us, focus on what we do. You only have a day or two to prepare so you can’t really dive into that much film, so I think we’re going to focus on what we need to do, how we can get better.”
Face off is set for 4pm on Monday at Klöckner Stadium.