Just when things looked bleak, the Virginia Men’s Lacrosse team pulled off yet another dramatic come-from-behind win to earn a spot in the NCAA Championship game. The victim this time was the second-seeded Duke Blue Devils, who were unable to come up with a stop late as the Hoos took a 13-12 double overtime victory. It was the first win over Duke since the 2010 ACC Tournament, ending a streak of 11-straight Blue Devil wins.
A raucous crowd of 32,612 were treated to a barn-burner of a game in which Virginia came back late in the fourth for the sixth time this season.
Ian Laviano provided the game-tying and game-winning goals, his third and fourth of the day, and Matt Moore dished the assists on both. Laviano’s four goals led the team, with Dox Aitken adding three. Matt Moore had two goals to go with his two assists, but Michael Kraus led the squad with four dishes (and one goal).
Virginia jumped out to a 2-1 lead after the first quarter thanks to two goals from fourth year Ryan Conrad, but Duke used a four goal run in the second quarter to take a 5-2 advantage into the break. The Hoos were sloppy with the ball in the first half, turning it over 13 times in the first 30 minutes and only landing four shots on goal (out of 20 total shots in the half).
A strong day in cage from goalkeeper Alex Rode — who tied a career-high with 19 saves on the day — kept things from getting more out of hand in the first half, but Duke started to pull away early in the second half. Moore’s first goal of the game made it a 6-4 game with 7:46 was an absolute beauty as the Pennsylvania native ripped a shot from outside that hit pay dirt.
The Blue Devils built their lead to a four-goal advantage at 8-4 with 7:03 to play in the third quarter after a face off goal from Brian Smyth, but LaSalla responded eight seconds later with one of his own to keep the Hoos within striking distance.
Every time Virginia would climb closer to tying the game, Duke would find an answer. Moore would once again make it a two-goal game with his second goal at the 2:15 mark of the third quarter, and Mikey Herring found Laviano to make it an 8-7 game heading into the final 15 minutes of action.
All of the Hoos’ momentum seemed to leave Lincoln Financial Field as the Blue Devils scored nine seconds into the fourth quarter and then followed it up with another goal with 13:56 remaining. Laviano’s second goal of the game ended Duke’s mini-run, but the Blue Devils pushed their advantage back to three at 11-8 with 9:49 to play.
Virginia took advantage of its first man up opportunity as Aitken connected on an EMO goal with 8:41 remaining, then the Philly native pulled the Hoos within one at 11-10 just 46 seconds later.
Despite many good looks at tying the game, but three consecutive saves from Duke goalie Turner Uppgren left the Blue Devils with a one goal lead and possession. The Blue Devils would deliver what appeared to be the back-breaking goal with 1:56 left on the clock after burning 3:56 seconds. Duke was able to corral a ricochet off of Rode for a new shot clock, then draw a holding penalty on John Fox for a new clock and man-up opportunity that saw Kevin Quigley push Duke’s lead to 12-10.
But the Hoos wouldn’t quit. Virginia won the face off thanks to a slick ground ball pick up from Jared Conners, and Kraus’s lone goal of the game kept things interesting with just 46 seconds left on the clock. The Hoos would have one last look at keeping their season alive after Duke’s face off man Brian Smyth was whistled for moving before the whistle, and Laviano cashed in with just 15 seconds left:
LaSalla won the face off in the first overtime, but — after a shot from Moore went off the pipe — Virginia turned it over and gave Duke a shot at winning the game. “This is actually the first time we’ve played defense in overtime,” Conrad said after the game amid his praise for LaSalla’s clutch face off play. “Every other game, he’s won the face off and we’ve just gone down and scored. That’s a credit to the defense for stepping up in OT.”
Rode would come up with two huge saves, preserving the tie and forcing four more minutes of play. Virginia would need just 51 seconds of the second OT period after Conrad came up with a pivotal ground ball (his fifth of the game) and Laviano capped off the game with a laser from the inside:
“I’m not thinking, that’s something that me and Matt [Moore] have connected on before,” Laviano said of the instinct involved in depositing the game winner. “Incredible look by Matt. I just had to do the easiest part and put it in the back of the net.”
It’s Virginia’s first trip to the championship game since the Hoos won it all in 2011, and the first trip for head coach Lars Tiffany (his Brown team lost in the 2016 semifinals). The Cavaliers will face either No. 1 seed Penn State or No. 5 seed Yale, but for now, they’re just grateful for another chance to play.
“To see us battle and game after game come back from behind...I wish we could make it easier on ourselves and play well all four quarters, but the tenacity and grit of this team is just unparalleled,” Conrad said after the game. “I’m just so happy I get another two days with this team.”
The championship game will start at 1pm on Monday and will be aired by ESPN2.