As the final seconds ticked off the clock, the Virginia contingent of the 31,528 fans in Lincoln Financial Field bellowed their support of the Cavaliers in celebration of the program’s sixth national title. The Hoos beat the reigning champion Yale Bulldogs, 13-9, behind a stellar performance from the defense and a sound day from the offense.
Alex Rode followed up a career-tying semifinal with a 13 save showing that stifled a Yale offense that had blistered through the first three rounds of the tournament. Matt Moore led the Cavaliers with four goals and an assist. Michael Kraus added 3 goals as well.
Rode’s performance was matched only by freshman face-off specialist Petey LaSalla, who was tasked with neutralizing T.D. Ierlan, Yale’s behemoth at the X who entered the game winning better than 70 percent of his draws en route to becoming a Tewaaraton finalist. Ierlan still won the clear majority of face-offs but LaSalla was able to tie him up long enough for UVA’s wings to cause numerous turnovers. Oh—and LaSalla put two in the back of the net himself off of clean wins.
The win was a perfect capstone to a season that began under a cloud of sadness for head coach Lars Tiffany, whose father passed away in late January. All through the season, Tiffany has kept on the sidelines a hand-made, old-school wooden stick that his father had commissioned for him; Lars could be seen during pre-game warmups using the stick to play catch with his players. And on Memorial Day, Lars was able to celebrate his father—a Marine and Korean War veteran—under the chill of a Gatorade batch, holding the national title trophy high.
Seniors Ryan Conrad, Logan Greco, Dave Smith, and Matt Dziama all played key roles in getting the Hoos back to this weekend and back atop the pedestal. They end their careers on a mountaintop that may have seemed impossible to attain when they began at Virginia in 2015: a program mired in the midst of a conference losing streak, that then endured a lengthy coaching search and patient rebuild. Congratulations to all the players, and especially to those who will leave Virginia having restored the glory of the program’s past.