After Friday night’s loss at Syracuse, Virginia was hoping to get some of its mojo back against a non-conference opponent as it headed into a Saturday showdown with Cornell.
Whether the Cavaliers did so is debatable.
Eighth-ranked Virginia played one of its poorest overall games of the season, but thanks to a Greg Danseglio goal with less than five minutes to play, escaped with a 12-10 victory over Vermont on Tuesday night at Klöckner Stadium.
UVa coach Dom Starsia said it was as if his team was “stuck in sand” for much of the contest.
“It’s not the game I hoped for, but in a lot of ways it was the game I expected,” Starsia said. “I’m disappointed in my team that we didn’t play with more emotion, didn’t play with a little bit more passion.
“That’s unlike us, to be so quiet and so uninvolved.”
The game started out with a surprise. Starsia benched usual starters Dan Marino, Mark Cockerton and Ryan Tucker.
“It was a coach’s decision, just a little team matter,” Starsia said. “These boys, we’re always trying to get them to just grow up a little bit, and that was part of it.”
In the second quarter, Vermont (1-4) reeled off three straight goals to take a 6-3 lead.
“Starting a game like that is really inexcusable, especially against a team that deserves our attention right from the get-go,” said Virginia sophomore Owen Van Arsdale. “You could sort of feel it from the beginning of the day that it was going to be that sort of day for us.”
Virginia (5-1) trimmed the deficit to 6-5 at the break after a pair of goals by Matt White.
In the first half, the Cavaliers won just five of 13 faceoffs, though they rebounded to win seven of 13 in the second half.
“I would have thought we would have been better facing off,” Starsia said. “Part of it was that we didn’t give a lot of help to Mick [Parks] from the wing. We didn’t have that quick step like we have in the past.”
In the second half, Starsia went back to Marino in goal. The freshman, who had started the first five games of the season, faced just two shots in the third quarter. Sophomore Rhody Heller had been pelted with 22 in the first half.
Vermont, coached by former UVa All-American Ryan Curtis, took a 7-5 lead on a goal by Graham Horvath with 8:49 remaining in the third quarter.
UVa answered with goals by Van Arsdale and Greg Coholan to tie the game heading into the fourth quarter.
With the game tied at 10, Danseglio, a defender, couldn’t have picked a better time to score his first career goal.
After Tanner Scales stripped the ball from Vermont, Danseglio took a pass from Bobby Hill, raced in from midfield and fired a shot past Vermont goalie Justin Rosenberg.
“It was just a great defensive stand and then I pushed it in transition,” Danseglio said. “I got a good pass from my teammate and was lucky to stick one high in the goal.
“I just felt like that was the play to do. The coaches do a good job of letting me have the green light and telling me to push it in transition. I just took a chance and stuck it.”
Heading into the game, it was easy to understand how Virginia might take Vermont lightly. UVa had won 31 straight mid-week, non-conference games. In addition, the Cavaliers had won all five previous meetings with Vermont by an average of nine goals.
In the end, Van Arsdale said everyone was just glad to have avoided the upset.
“It was good to show our resiliency to get through that and end up with a win,” he said. “It’s good to know that we can dig deep and take care of things when we’re not having our way early on.”
Added Starsia: “The ‘W’ beats an ‘L,’ but only by a little bit in this case.”
Starsia said he will talk to defender Chris Lapierre in the next couple of days about the next step in his return from a knee injury. Starsia said the knee hasn’t responded the way everybody had hoped and said a medical redshirt was a possible option for the senior captain.