Playing in the nightcap on a busy day for Virginia athletics, the Cavaliers' men’s lacrosse team definitely did not disappoint, defeating Rutgers 19-12 on Saturday.
After the baseball team defeated East Carolina, 4-0, at Davenport Field and the men’s basketball team handled Notre Dame at John Paul Jones Arena, a lively crowd of 2,758 filed into the stands of Klöckner Stadium to see the No. 5 Cavaliers take on the Scarlet Knights.
Virginia had played three close games to open their season, winning all of their contests by a margin of one goal. Despite falling behind by three goals early in the second quarter, the Cavaliers rallied and made it a game.
Ryan Tucker scored four times in the second quarter, including back-to-back goals that gave the Cavaliers (4-0) a 9-8 lead going into halftime. His final goal of the second quarter came on a beautiful dish from Mark Cockerton with five tenths of a second left on the clock.
“[Rutgers goaltender Kris Alleyne] was a really good player, and we just wanted to shoot good shots in good spots,” Tucker said. “I definitely could have finished a couple more, but it was good...great offense. I think we worked well in the six on six and the transition game.”
Tucker struggled with his shooting last season, connecting on just 24 percent of his attempts. This season, however, the third-year midfielder has hit his stride and is racking up the goals as a result. That trend continued Saturday, as Tucker shot an impressive 5-for-8 (62.5 percent) for the evening. His five goals were a career high, and he threw in an assist for good measure.
“Some of it is the willfulness of the scorer,” Virginia coach Dom Starsia said of Tucker. “He’s always had a really nice stroke, but I think he’s just shooting the ball with so much confidence that he expects the ball to go in.”
Despite his six points, Tucker was not even the points leader for the Wahoos. Cockerton notched seven points on four goals and a career-high three assists to lead the Cavaliers.
Virginia’s offense cruised in the second half, scoring five goals in both the third and fourth quarters. Hustle for groundballs and extended offensive possessions allowed the Cavaliers to wear down Rutgers and build on their lead. Virginia nabbed 44 groundballs to 28 for Rutgers, and the Cavaliers shot the ball a blistering 60 times. Starsia was happy with his team’s play on the turf.
“We were very persistent," Starsia said. "Frankly, I think the single biggest difference was our play off the ground...We hadn’t been getting the ball off the ground on our defensive end well in the first couple of games, but tonight I thought our defenders got every ball up and our offensive guys were riding the ball back.”
Alleyne kept Rutgers in the game with 21 saves, but it was not enough to stop Virginia, who had eight different goal scorers.
When asked about being the closing act for a banner day for Virginia sports, Starsia said: “Wouldn’t that be neat if we finished off the day like this.”