Philadelphia, Pa. -
Led by a balanced offense and another dominant start, the top-ranked Virginia men's lacrosse team rolled to a 17-10 win over Syracuse this afternoon in the semifinals of the NCAA Championships before a tournament record 49,562 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia.
Virginia squares off against the University of Massachusetts Monday at 1 pm in the national championship game. The Minutemen (13-4) defeated Maryland 8-5 in the other semifinal game today.
The Cavaliers are in search of their fourth NCAA Championship overall and their first since 2003, while UMass has reached the finals for the first time in program history.
The Cavaliers remain the only undefeated team in the country and gained their school-record 16th win of the season this afternoon. Syracuse returned to the final four this year after a year's absence and sees its season end with a 10-5 record.
Syracuse attackman Brett Bucktooth scored in the game's first minute. The early lead by the Orange was the first deficit the Cavaliers had faced in nine games.
The score remained 1-0 Syracuse for a little more than two-and-a-half minutes before freshman Danny Glading tied with his 24th goal of the season at the 11:24 mark. Fellow freshman Steve Giannone beat goalie Peter Coluccini for his only goal of the game 49 seconds later to give Virginia a lead it would never relinquish.
Garrett Billings became the third Cavalier freshman in a row to score with the first of his three tallies at the 9:39 mark. Kyle Dixon, Matt Ward and Drew Thompson scored in quick succession as the Virginia lead ballooned to 6-1 midway through the first quarter.
"We haven't really been a hot starting team the whole year. That's sort of evolved in the second half of the season," said Virginia head coach Dom Starsia. "Early in the year we actually struggled to put the ball in the goal. It seemed like games were closer longer than they have been more recently. We talk all the time about trying to get off to a good start. It was especially important late in the season, especially when we lost (the opportunity to play) those couple of games and everybody was concerned what the rest was going to do. We really talked in practice often about the tempo of play and making sure we weren't caught by surprise by the tempo of play. It may be that by emphasizing that the last few weeks we've been able to get off to a better start. We certainly have played well in the early part of the most recent games."
Syracuse midfielder Brian Crockett ended Virginia's six-goal run with 4:11 remaining in the first quarter. Billings and Ward tallied in the final 1:26 to give UVa an 8-2 lead. Virginia scored its eight goals in the first quarter on just 12 shots.
Matt Poskay opened the second quarter scoring as Virginia notched nine of the game's first 11 goals. The 9-2 advantage marked Syracuse's largest deficit of the season.
The Orange scratched their way back into the game with a four-goal run to cut the Cavalier lead to 9-6. Freshmen Dan Hardy, Kenny Nims and Matt Abbott, joined Bucktooth in helping cut into Virginia's lead.
Ben Rubeor scored his only goal of the game for Virginia two-minutes and nine seconds before halftime to push the Cavalier lead to four at 10-6. Crockett closed the first half scoring with 3.8 seconds left in the half as Virginia took a 10-7 lead at the break.
"When we went in at halftime we were in kind of the same situation we were in against Georgetown, being up 8-5," said Ward. "We had just worked so hard all year that the second half has kind of become our half and we try to put our games away. We came out in the second half and scored a lot of goals. I think our team went in at halftime and knew what it was going to take to get the victory."
Ward got the Cavaliers started quickly with back-to-back goals to push the lead back to five goals (12-7). Nathan Kenney, a key member of UVa's 2003 national championship squad now playing as a graduate student at Syracuse, scored his fifth goal of the season in unusual fashion as the ball passed through a broken string in the top right corner of the goal.
Once again Virginia responded with another run of three unanswered goals to open the final quarter. Poskay tied the school record for goals by a midfielder with his 36th of the year less than three minutes into the quarter. Senior Jared Little knocked home a nice feed from Rubeor, the second consecutive game he scored, and Glading capped his afternoon with his 25th goal of the season as the lead grew to seven goals for a second time.
The teams traded goals for the final seven minutes of the game. Billings became only the fourth freshman in Virginia history to score 30 goals with his goal at 5:01. Little closed the scoring with his first multi-goal game in a year-and-a-half with a score with 1:52 to go.
Kip Turner went the whole way in goal for the Cavaliers and recorded 10 saves, the third playoff game in a row he has reached double figures.
Virginia has won all seven games against Massachusetts, but the teams have not played since a 15-6 UVa win in 1999.
#7 Syracuse 2-5-1-2--10 record: 10-5
#1 Virginia 8-2-2-5--20 record: 16-0
Scoring (G-A)--V: Matt Ward 4-0, Garrett Billings 3-0, Matt Poskay 2-1, Danny Glading 2-0, Jared Little 2-0, Ben Rubeor 1-2, Drew Thompson 1-2, Kyle Dixon 1-1, Steve Giannone 1-0, Michael Culver 0-1, Jack Riley 0-1. S: Brett Bucktooth 2-0, Brian Crockett 2-0, Kenny Nims 2-0, Joe Yevoli 1-2, Dan Hardy 1-1, Matt Abbott 1-0, Nathan Kenney 1-0, Mike Leveille 0-2, Patrick Perritt 0-1.
Goalie Summary--V: Kip Turner 60:00 mins., 10 saves, 10 goals allowed. S: Peter Coluccini 52:59 mins., 10 saves, 15 goals allowed; Jake Myers 7:01 mins, 0 saves, 2 goals allowed.
Shots: V--42, S--40
Ground Balls: V--28, S--28
Clearing: V--18x23, S--12x18
Faceoffs: V--13, S--17
Penalties: V--6-5:00, S--2-2:00
EMO: V--0x2, S--0x5