For the second consecutive season, the Virginia men’s lacrosse team will play in the ACC Tournament championship game on its home field.
And the Cavaliers did it by using a familiar formula.
Virginia used a 6-1 run in the fourth quarter to erase a four-goal second half deficit and defeat North Carolina 14-13 on Saturday in the ACC Tournament semifinals in Chapel Hill. The Wahoos (12-3) will host Notre Dame in the ACC Tournament championship game next Saturday at 2 p.m. at Klöckner Stadium.
Comebacks are nothing new for Virginia, which has also rallied from second-half deficits to pick up wins over Princeton, Syracuse, Brown and Notre Dame this season.
“When you come back a few times during the season like we have, our men truly believe that we are never out of it,” Virginia coach Lars Tiffany said. “The cultural shift of committing to this program, the sacrifice these men have made has been significant behind the scenes and it makes the difference.”
North Carolina (8-7) led 12-8 with 14:09 to go in the game.
That is when the Wahoos took control.
Dox Aitken started the comeback with 7:31 left by scoring back-to-back goals to cut the deficit to two, 12-10. After Aitken’s goals, Ian Laviano scored on a Matt Moore helper with 6:32 left in the fourth, followed by an acrobatic goal by Mikey Herring on another Moore assist with 5:37 left to play to tie the game at 12-12.
UNC regained the lead when Alex Trippi bounced in a shot with 3:24 to go, but Michael Kraus tied the game at 13-13 with an unassisted goal just 19 seconds later. After a save by Patrick Burkinshaw and an ensuring ground ball by Matt Dziama, Cade Saustad recorded his first career assist when he found Laviano for the game-winning goal with 1:30 remaining.
“When it was 12-8 [North Carolina] and Caton Johnson was playing so fantastic along with the UNC defense getting to our sticks and blocking our shots, I was very impressed by a North Carolina team playing on one-day rest,” Virginia coach Lars Tiffany said. “We kept waiting for them to fade so we could get that extra ground ball, but it wasn’t until the last five minutes that we felt that.”
Laviano had four goals to lead the Wahoos. Ryan Conrad added three goals, Kraus chipped in two goals and one assist, while Moore finished with one goal and six assists.