Virginia vs. North Carolina
April 5, 2003
The Game Story:
CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA-The Virginia men's lacrosse squad ended a two-game losing streak with a 10-7 victory over North Carolina this afternoon at Klöckner Stadium. The Cavaliers move to 6-2 overall this season and 1-1 in the ACC. The Tar Heels, who could have clinched the ACC regular season championship with a win, fall to 5-4 overall and 2-1 in the ACC.

Sophomore John Christmas led the Virginia attack with three goals in his most productive outing in four games. Rookie Matt Ward added a career-high five points on the strength of two goals and three assists.

Junior Tillman Johnson was stellar in goal once again, turning back 14 Tar Heel shots, including at least five from within five yards. The seven goals by the Tar Heels are their fewest of the season, the fifth time this season UVa has held the opposition to its lowest total of the year. It is also the fifth game in a row the Cavaliers have allowed fewer than 10 goals, their longest streak in three years.

"We just tried to tell the guys to relax a little bit," said UVa head coach Dom Starsia. "Confidence is a delicate thing with college kids, and when you lose two games in a row, [you tend to lose it]. I thought we looked very tentative in the first half. We weren't hanging on to the ball, gave them failed clears, and just gave the ball right back to them at times. After the first half, I just told them to settle down and play the game like they're capable of playing it."

Virginia, which had a dominant defensive performance throughout, looked like a team that was unsure of itself early on. North Carolina struck first only a minute into the game on midfielder Austin Garrison's unassisted goal.

The Cavaliers quickly erased the deficit and bolted to a 4-2 lead at the end of the first quarter. North Carolina outscored UVa 3-1 in the second period as Tar Heel midfielder Steven Will scored with one second left in the half on a dodge from behind the cage to knot the score at five at halftime. Ward had a hand in three of UVa's first half tallies, while Christmas notched the Cavaliers' first two goals of the game.

The Cavaliers heeded their head coach's advice by scoring the first three goals of the second half to take a lead they'd never relinquish. Christmas started the run by taking a feed from defenseman Ned Bowen and beating goalie Paul Spellman for UVa's third fast break goal of the game. Freshman Kyle Dixon scored his first goal in six games and was followed a short time later by Joe Yevoli's second goal of the contest to push the Cavalier lead to 8-5.

North Carolina answered with an extra man goal by attackman Jed Prossner with a minute left in the third quarter. After failed attempts at both ends of the field during the next nine minutes, the visitors found the back of the net again with 6:47 left in the game on midfielder Lance Zimmerman's goal, which was set up by a deflected shot from attackman Scott Falatach.

A.J. Shannon used his strength to overpower his defender for his second score of the game to give the Cavaliers some breathing room with 4:17 to go. Ward closed the scoring with an extra man goal with 3:13 left.

"I think one of the main things was the coach telling us to settle down," said Cavalier defenseman Brett Hughes, who held Prossner, UNC's leading scorer, to one goal. "Sometimes it takes us a half to settle down. We didn't change anything on defense. Coach (Starsia) just had to remind us to get back to what we've been doing all year. When we've been successful, we're composed and not trying to do too much and we're just trying to do the fundamentals."

Virginia travels to Duke next Saturday for a 2:30 pm match-up against the Blue Devils at Koskinen Stadium. The Tar Heels stay on the road with a 1 pm game at UMBC.