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One Year Later: A look at Virginia Lacrosse’s NCAA quarterfinal comeback

Virginia won the possession battle and pulled out a dramatic win.

NCAA LACROSSE: MAY 27 NCAA Lacrosse Championships Photo by John Jones/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

One year ago today, Matt Moore capped off a dramatic comeback to give the Virginia Cavaliers an overtime win against the Maryland Terrapins in the NCAA quarterfinals. The win sent the Hoos back to Championship Weekend for the first time since 2011, and it was one of the most improbable of Virginia’s many come-from-behind wins en route to a national title.

The game was an instant classic and one that people will be talking about for a long time (for a number of reasons).

What happened?

With 6:42 left in the third quarter, Virginia midfielder Dox Aitken tied the score at 7-7. Maryland would go on to score the next five goals, taking a 12-7 lead with 10:38 to play in the fourth. An extra-man goal by Ryan Conrad — featuring a gorgeous feed from Moore — cut the deficit to four with 9:23 to play. Virginia stalled out offensively for the next 5:58 to keep the gap at four goals until Conrad struck again with 3:25 left in the game (and at the time, the season) to make it 12-9.

Maryland handed the Cavaliers a gift as the Terrapin defender took a cheap shot on Conrad, drawing a flag, right before Ian Laviano connected on a beautiful low-to-low shot from outside just 20 seconds later to cut the deficit to two. Petey LaSalla and the Hoos easily won the ensuing face off with the man advantage, and Conrad made it a one-goal game with 2:41 left on the clock.

The real drama creeps in with 1:14 to play as the referees award a goal to Virginia’s Michael Kraus, but upon replay it looks as if the shot actually hits off the crossbar. That tied the game at 12-12, and the two teams went to overtime. Moore would score the decisive goal 45 seconds later.

How did we get here?

A lot will be made of Kraus’s “non-goal”. But that’s not the reason Virginia won or Maryland lost. Over the first three quarters, Maryland played their brand of lacrosse. They got Virginia unsettled on defense using switches between man and zone, and offensively they challenged the Wahoo defense by attacking frequently, drawing switches, and finding the open shooter.

Up four with under nine minutes to play, Maryland took the air out of the ball. Took the foot off of the gas. Let the wind out of their sails. Whatever cliche term you choose to describe it, the Terps changed up how they were playing on the offensive end of the field.

Here’s how Maryland’s possessions played out from the 8:55 point in the 4th quarter, up by four goals:

8:55 - 7:55: Ended on a turnover, the Terps got a shot off, but SSDM John Fox blocked it, causing a scrum on the sideline. Maryland held for the first 40 seconds, burning clock.

Possession Time: 60 seconds
End Result: Turnover

6:37 - 5:23: Maryland gains possession after a blocked shot. They hold for the majority of the shot clock, and the Virginia defense forces a turnover as the Terps make a push towards the goal.

Possession Time: 74 seconds
End Result: Turnover

5:14 - 3:55: The Terps take advantage of a failed clear by Virginia and regain possession nine seconds later. This is the first instance where Maryland is obviously content to just play keep away as the offensive player doesn’t take advantage of the defender playing overly aggressive defense trying to force a turnover. Maryland turns down multiple chances to move toward the goal. Terps take a shot clock violation to end the possession. Virginia would make it a three-goal game 30 seconds later.

Possession Time: 79 seconds
End Result: Shot Clock Violation

1:52 - 1:38: Maryland gains possession of the ball for the first time in just over two minutes (and three goals) after the Hoos can’t corral the ball behind the goal. That possession lasts 14 seconds before the Virginia ride forces a turnover.

Possession Time: 14 seconds
End Result: Turnover

On the flip side, Virginia scored goals with 3:25, 3:05, 2:41, and 1:14 left. Those goals came after 30 second, 25 second, 24 second, and 24 second possessions. Virginia, of course, had to push tempo to overcome a multi-goal deficit with under four minutes remaining.

Possession Battle

Over that pivotal final 8:55 of regulation:

  • Virginia had possession for 5:08 to Maryland’s 3:47
  • First year Petey LaSalla went 5-0 at the face off X
  • Virginia scored four goals on seven shots
  • Maryland had one save and four turnovers

If you include overtime, Maryland had no face off wins for the final 11:50 of the game, no saves for the final 9:09, and no possession for the final 2:23. It’s hard to win games that way. In overtime, Virginia’s momentum continued with LaSalla’s seventh straight face off win, leading to one shot and one goal from Moore to seal the victory.

A lot will be made of the impact the officials had at the end of this game, but you cannot deny that Virginia executed in the midfield and on attack down the stretch as Maryland slowed down its attack. That’s the perfect combination for the come-from-behind Cardiac Cavaliers.

There could have been even more drama if — instead of calling it a goal — the officials gave the ball back to Maryland after the inadvertent whistle due to the alternating possession rule (Rule 4, Section 32 on pg. 52). Conrad was clearly closer to the sideline, but the enforcement of the rule likely would have resulted in a Maryland possession. Thankfully, we don’t have to ponder that alternate reality.

Watch the whole game here (the good stuff starts at 1:37:35):