HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. – Graduation caps filled the air Saturday during Final Exercises on Grounds in Charlottesville. More than 300 miles away in Hofstra’s James M. Shuart Stadium, gleaming orange helmets and padded lacrosse gloves rained down on the turf after the final horn sounded on the NCAA Tournament quarterfinals.
The cardiac Cavaliers had struck again. No. 3-seed Virginia rallied from five goals down to beat unseeded Maryland, 13-12, on Matt Moore’s goal with 3:15 left in overtime.
It was Virginia’s fourth overtime win of the season, but it holds more weight than the others. It punched the Cavaliers’ first ticket to the sport’s final weekend since 2011, when they beat Maryland to win the national championship. With its first national title appearance since then on the line, UVa will face next Saturday in Philadelphia in the national semifinal.
“I’m a very grateful man who is surrounded by great men,” Coach Lars Tiffany said. “When I think about the Virginia lacrosse man, I think of one who is driven to succeed.”
Moore’s game-winner was just his second goal on the day, but it gave the Cavaliers their first lead and was part of Virginia’s 6-0 run over the final 11-plus minutes.
“We had good movement in the middle, I drifted and [Michael Kraus] found me perfectly,” Moore said. “His pass hit my stick perfectly, I shot it stick-side high and that’s what happened.”
The Cavaliers’ latest comeback was powered by senior Ryan Conrad, who scored three of his four goals in the fourth quarter, including back-to-back netters to kick off the Wahoos’ decisive run and cut Maryland’s lead to 12-9 with 3:29 to play.
As much as his late heroics helped extend Virginia’s season by at least one more week, Conrad said the team was driven more Saturday by past experience.
This season, the Cavaliers (15-3) earned overtime wins over Princeton, Syracuse and Brown in consecutive weeks. They had to rally from four goals down against Brown and five down in a regular season win over Notre Dame. In the ACC Tournament semifinals at North Carolina, they had to erase a four-goal deficit in the fourth quarter.
“It’s just something that we rely on all the time,” Conrad said. “We’ve had so much experience just in this one year of so many comeback victories, and you can hear it. Every single kid on the team has confidence in ourselves, and honestly, we don’t even have to say it.”
After Ian Laviano (three goals) scored with 3:05 to play Saturday, cutting the Terrapins’ lead to two, Conrad connected on his third goal of the final quarter to bring Virginia within one. With a little more than a minute left in regulation, another of the Cavaliers’ top contributors came up big.
Kraus’ first goal of the day tied the game in controversial fashion. He fired a long sidearm shot that ricocheted off the crossbar but, according to the official behind the cage, made contact with enough of the netting to count.
Petey LaSalla won the fourth quarter’s final faceoff to give the Cavaliers a chance to win it in regulation, but shots by Moore, Kraus and Laviano were all off target. Undaunted, LaSalla also won the first faceoff in overtime, but unlike in regulation, Virginia took its time, moved the ball around and set Moore up to hit the clincher.
Saturday’s faceoff numbers were even in the first half, but after Maryland (12-5) went into halftime clinging to a 6-5 lead, Virginia won 13 of the game’s final 16 faceoffs. LaSalla went 16-for-24 on the X.
“What I see in Petey is he’s really quick to the clamp,” Dox Aitken said. “When he has it, he was the wherewithal to look around and find his wings. He knows where to go and how to exit.”
Jared Bernhardt and Anthony DeMaio led Maryland with four goals apiece. After Aitken’s only goal of the day tied the game at 7 early in the third quarter, the duo scored back-to-back goals to spark a 5-0 run. At the time, it looked like Maryland had a clear path to victory.
Louis Dubick made it three straight goals after leaping to catch a pass and scoring before his cleats hit the ground, sending Maryland into the fourth quarter with a 10-7 lead. Less than four minutes later, Christian Zawadzki made it four unanswered goals and DeMaio notched another to give the Terrapins a 12-7 lead with 10:38 left in regulation.
After his team’s latest comeback, Tiffany laughed off a comparison during the postgame press conference to Virginia’s men’s basketball team, which, a little more than a month ago, used a series of dramatic comeback win to claim a national title. And he was quick to correct a misconception.
“We had those three overtime wins in a row in February and early March, so the men’s basketball team copied us first,” he said with a chuckle. “Now, we’re stealing a page from their book because that was a fantastic run in the Elite Eight, semifinals and finals when they were down three or four points in the final seconds and found ways to win.”
The basketball team won its national title in the Minnesota Vikings’ U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis. The men’s lacrosse team will look to conclude its run in another football stadium – the Philadelphia Eagles’ Lincoln Financial Field.