The Virginia Cavalier men’s lacrosse team earned a spot in the ACC tournament title game thanks to a dramatic 14-13 win over the North Carolina Tar Heels on Saturday afternoon. Virginia trailed by as many as four in the fourth quarter and had to withstand their longest scoring drought of the season — 26 minutes — en route to the win, but the Cavaliers proved once again they would not quit.
Things looked dire when Virginia fell behind 10-6 with 8:16 left in the third quarter after the Tar Heels went on a seven-goal run spanning halftime. Virginia responded with two goals from Michael Kraus and Ryan Conrad, but UNC answered in kind to take a 12-8 lead with 14:09 remaining in the game. Then the Cardiac Cavaliers stepped in.
Dox Aitken scored back-to-back goals — the first of which gave him 100 for his career and the second of which made him the all-time points leader for Virginia midfielders — to pull the Hoos back within two with 7:31 remaining. Ian Laviano’s third goal made it a one-goal game just under a minute later and amped up the Virginia bench in the process.
Matt Moore’s sixth assist of the game came on a highlight-reel goal from Mikey Herring that tied the game up at 12 with 5:37 remaining.
UNC would retake the lead 2:13 later on a goal from Alex Trippi with five seconds left on the shot clock. The Tar Heels would only hold the lead for 19 seconds as Jared Conners corraled the loose ball off of the face off and found Kraus beyond goal line extended. Kraus changed direction on a dime, evaded two more Carolina defenders, and deposited the tying score in the net.
North Carolina got possession thanks to a face off violation call with 3:05 to play, putting the onus on the Virginia defense to come up with a stop. They did not disappoint. After a huge save from first year goalie Pat Burkinshaw, the ball ricocheted towards the corner. Defensive midfielder Matt Dziama was a step behind the Carolina attackman, but the former sold out with a dive to try and prevent the Tar Heel player from picking up the ball. Dziama sprung immediately to his feet, somehow getting the ground ball and finding teammate Conners for the outlet. Conners fed first year defender Cade Saustad in stride, and Saustad dished a perfect assist to Laviano for the game winning goal with 1:30 left in the game.
Matt Dziama keeping the GB alive leads straight to a goal -- if this ball goes out of bounds or if UNC gets there and dumps to opposite corner, then UVA never gets a numbers advantage for GWG. pic.twitter.com/LAdH4sBJBz— Joe Keegan (@joekeegs) April 27, 2019
North Carolina would get a couple opportunities to tie the game, but Virginia’s defense didn’t give them a good look at the cage and the Hoos were able to run out the clock.
Virginia got out to a hot start in the game and led 6-3 after one quarter, but the offense stalled out as the defense struggled to get a stop. Laviano led the Hoos with four goals, but Moore’s career day as an assist man gave him seven points (one goal, six assists) for the game. Fourth year Ryan Conrad finished with three goals and five ground balls.
After quiet first halves, Aitken and Kraus each had two goals in the decisive fourth quarter when the team needed them most.
Next up, Virginia will host either Duke or Notre Dame in Charlottesville for the ACC Championship game. This is the first season with the semifinals and finals on different weekends, and the Cavaliers are hosting by virtue of being the No. 1 seed in the tournament. Game time is set for 2pm.