One thing was evident before the ball ever hit the grass of Klockner Stadium on Saturday between the third-ranked Virginia Cavaliers (5-0) and the fourth-ranked Syracuse Orange (1-1): This was a new season. The raucous crowd of 4038, the energized players and the verbose coaches provided a frenzied atmosphere between these two top-five powerhouses that was missing from earlier Virginia men's lacrosse games like VMI and Stony Brook. In the end, Virginia’s offense proved to be too much taking down the Orange 20-15 in a classic shootout. The victory marked Virginia's 15th consecutive win at home, tying the school record, and their first victory over the Orange at home in 10 years.
These two high-powered offenses did not take long to get going, Syracuse captain Brett Bucktooth scored the game's first goal off a great feed by attacker Dan Hardy only 46 seconds into the game. Virginia retaliated in less than a minute with a goal by senior attacker Matt Ward who somehow was able to roll the ball with the top of his stick into the goal after falling down hard to the turf with 13:18 remaining in the first. Ward finished the day with three goals (one of four Cavaliers to end up with the hat trick) to give the captain 109 for his career to pass Tom Duquette for 6th most goals in Virginia history.
Joe Yevoli is another prominent name in the Virginia history books. After leaving the Cavaliers amid controversy last season, he seemed determined this afternoon to give his new team, Syracuse, a great chance to win. Yevoli scored his first of three goals with 10:07 left in the first quarter to give Syracuse the lead back at 2-1. Sophomore Ben Rubeour answered with a goal to tie it back up after a great assist from Ward. Rubeour was playing for the first time since injuring his ankle against #19 Denver. The attacker looked no worse for wear as he finished the game with an impressive 3 goals and 2 assists.
Virginia kept the run going when midfielder Drew Thompson picked up a ground ball and ran the length of the field to score a dramatic, unassisted goal with 6:38 left in the first quarter that gave Virginia it's first lead of the game.
After that goal, Syracuse began to find a rhythm. The Orange went on a 5-1 run over a four minute span where face-off victories resulted in fast-break opportunities and the Cavaliers were rattled. Virginia's goalie Kip Turner had a first quarter to forget, registering only 1 save on 11 shot attempts. Yevoli found a seam with 2:13 left in the first quarter and scored to give Syracuse its biggest lead of the game at 7-4.
Before the quarter ended, midfielder Kyle Dixon took the ball with 11.6 seconds to go in the first quarter and hit a huge goal that got the Virginia crowd back on their feet and revived hope for a comeback.
"That goal really settled everyone down," Dixon said.
The second quarter may go down as one of the best quarters in Virginia lacrosse history. Virginia outscored Syracuse 8-1, constantly winning big face-offs which prevented the Orange from ever getting the ball to their quick strike offense. In fact, the Orange only got 3 shots on goal the entire quarter. Ben Rubeor's goal with 10:00 to go in the first half gave the Cavaliers the lead for good at 8-7 after a quick pass by junior Foster Gilbert.
Hardy picked up a goal late in the 2nd quarter breaking a drought of 12:19 for the Orange to cut the score to 10-8, but the Cavaliers reeled off three more goals to take a 13-8 lead at the half.
"We were able to keep the ball on our side for almost the entire second quarter," Ward said. "It really helped us keep them out of their transition game and [help us] take the lead."
A rough first half for Virginia goalie Kip Turner in which he only registered 2 saves on 15 shots led to Virginia coach Dom Starsia's decision to put Michael "Bud" Petit in the cage for the second half. The third quarter started however, just the way Virginia feared. Midfielder Patrick Perritt blew by his defender and used his quickness to pick up a quick goal at 13:44 for Syracuse. Bucktooth nailed an extra-man goal less than a minute later to close the gap to 13-10.
The Cavaliers, as they had done all day, responded. Senior attacker Matt Potskay and Ben Rubeor both picked up goals to turn the tide. Dixon scored his second critical goal of the game on an extra-man opportunity with 8:05 left in the third quarter to give Virginia a 16-10 lead.
Despite the margin, Syracuse was down but far from out. The Orange picked up three unanswered goals, the last by Mike Leveille to cut the deficit to just three with 11:09 to go in the game. Leveille finished the day with three goals and two assists
Virginia's Thompson and Syracuse's Hardy exchanged goals to make the score 17-14 but time was quickly running out for the Orange. Virginia defender Ricky Smith picked up a ground ball and charged towards the net to hit a critical goal with the longstick to push the lead to 18-14 with only 5:05 to go, essentialy icing the game. It was only Smith's second goal in his career, seemingly taking the game into his own hands. It seems fitting that Smith was allowed to pick up the score, after a shaky start he was able to contain Syracuse's Yevoli.
"In the first quarter, emotions are flying and you're fired up", Smith said. "I think we played well enough and am confident in our team -- I'd take our six-on-six [defense] anytime."
A couple of open net goals for Virginia's Jared Little and J.J. Morrissey pushed the lead up to 20-14 before Syracuse's Leveille responded with a last minute goal to make the final score 20-15.
The Cavaliers are now 5-0 on the year, and have proven that their offense is a force to be reckoned with. Virginia had not done great with extra man opportunities this year but were 4-5 today. It was not a flawless game however, Virginia knows it must continue to work on its transition defense for it cannot always rely on its offense to outscore the nation's top teams.
"We can't give up 15 goals every game," Ward said.
Virginia must also wonder if Kip Turner will remain the starting goalie, Bud Petit came into the cage and performed well under duress. Surely a similar performance will be needed when the Cavaliers play their next game on Sunday, March 12 on the road against #10 Princeton.
For Syracuse, the offensive prowess of Joe Yevoli and Mike Leveille were wasted by a porous defense. Freshman goalkeeper Peter Coluccini played a pretty good game, but when your team is facing twice as many shots as the opposition it is hard to win. Coluccini was benched like Turner in the second half, leading Jake Myers to get some minutes. Myers registered six saves, but allowed 7 goals. No matter who was at goal the key stats in this game were shots on goal (57-32 UVA )and face-offs (23-16 UVA). Syracuse's inability to win either category cost them dearly. Next up for the Orange are the (1-1) Georgetown Hoyas.
Time will tell what this game will mean for both teams. For now the Virginia Cavaliers are trying to stay focused. "There are no big wins and there are no big games", Rubeour said. "The only game that matters now is Princeton."
|Matt Ward||(3, 2)|
|Ben Rubeor||(3, 2)|
|Drew Thompson||(3, 1)|
|Kyle Dixon||(2, 2)|
|Matt Poskay||(3, 0)|
|Garrett Billings||(2, 0)|
|Danny Glading||(1, 1)|
|Ricky Smith||(1, 0)|
|Jj Morrissey||(1, 0)|
|Jared Little||(1, 0)|
|Foster Gilbert||(0, 1)|
|Michael Petit||6 (0.462)|
|Kip Turner||2 (0.200)|