For the first time since 2010, the Virginia Cavaliers are the ACC Champions in Men’s Lacrosse. The Hoos put on a clinic in a 10-4 victory over the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in front of a raucous crowd of 4,489 at Klöckner Stadium in Charlottesville. Virginia was led by Dox Aitken with three goals. Ryan Conrad added two goals, and Michael Kraus had two assists in the win.
“It was going to be a completely different game today, and we knew that,” Aitken said after the game in comparison to last year’s ACC title game against Notre Dame, a game Virginia lost 17-7. “Redemption game for us, because, you know, they beat the poop out of us last year. Didn’t feel good at all. We kind of remembered how that felt all week long, and just preached that we didn’t want to feel like that ever again.”
The Cavaliers had a balanced attack, getting goals from seven different players. Defensively, the Hoos held the Irish to their lowest output of the season and the lowest goals allowed for Virginia in an ACC tournament final game. Alex Rode was fantastic in goal, notching 11 saves and only allowing three goals.
In all, head coach Lars Tiffany was happy with his team’s dominant performance. “This is a major statement for our team defense,” Tiffany stated, continuing, “We’ve come a long way. I give credit to this group of men for still believing in me after that first year. Tiffany gave the defense credit for their decision making on when (and when not) to slide, as well as the well-balanced attack offensively.
Virginia got off to a hot start, getting back-to-back goals from Moore and Aitken to take a 2-0 lead with 8:20 remaining in the first quarter. An EMO goal got Notre Dame on the board with 5:37 left on the clock, and a score from Nick Stinn 1:26 later knotted things up at two. That score would hold going into the first break, and the Hoos turned things on in the second quarter.
The Hoos built a 5-2 lead going into the halftime break thanks to goals from Conrad, Laviano, and Aitken all connected for scores. Virginia kept things rolling after the break, pushing their scoring streak to seven straight heading into the fourth quarter with a comfortable 9-2 advantage.
Cory Harris kept things going with 9:12 to play in the fourth quarter with an open-net goal in transition as Schmidt and Notre Dame attempted a 10-man ride.
The Cavalier defense was incredible as they held the Irish scoreless the last 4:11 of the first quarter, entire second quarter, and entire third quarter before finally breaking through with a goal with 6:59 remaining. Notre Dame’s scoring drought lasted 42:10 of gameplay, and impressive feat for the Wahoo defense. The Irish turned the ball over 22 times in the game, and Virginia forced the Irish into completing just 14-of-21 clears.
Things could have been even worse for the Irish if goalkeeper Matt Schmidt hadn’t come up with 10 saves, some of which were fit for a highlight reel.
Virginia’s Ryan Conrad was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player, and Aitken, Conners, and Moore joined him on the All-Tournament team.