Virginia opens season with overtime win
White scores four goals, O'Reilly tallies career-high eight points in 13-12 victory
For the sixth consecutive year, No. 7 Virginia opened up the season by beating Drexel. However, the 13th overall meeting between the two teams, which Virginia won 13-12, was the first to be decided by overtime.
“Drexel gives us a hell of a fight every year,” senior midfielder and attackman Matt White said. “That’s kind of who they are and who we are, tough teams that’ll stay in the ring and fight with you… But luckily for us, the good guys came out on top.”
With the Cavaliers (1-0) leading 12-11 after a hard bounce shot from senior midfielder Charlie Streep found the back of the net with less than a minute left to play, the team needed to hold strong on defense. But in a back-and-forth game, nothing was going to come easy.
The Dragons (0-1) won the ensuing faceoff and after a timeout, appeared to have the ball stripped in front of the crease. But as freshman goalie Dan Marino attempted to scoop the ball and end Drexel’s hope for an early season upset, Drexel sophomore midfielder Ryan Belka outmaneuvered Marino for the ball and caught him out of position for an easy goal with a mere 10 seconds remaining in the game.
“We talked about finishing checks and being really efficient [inside], but we weren’t a lot of the time,” Virginia coach Dom Starsia said. “The tying goal epitomized the whole thing for us… the loose ball in front of the goal, we have people in the neighborhood, [but Drexel] came up with the loose ball. It seems like they sort of did that throughout the day and we just have to be a little sharper and a little more alert at the defensive end.”
In overtime however, it was all Virginia. Junior midfielder Rob Emery created a fast break off of the faceoff by nabbing the groundball in traffic and hitting junior attackman Nick O’Reilly, who then recorded his sixth assist of the day when he found White curling around the right side of the crease. White turned and buried the shot inside the near pipe for his fourth goal of the game, and celebration ensued for the Cavaliers.
“[Emery] made a real tough play on the groundball… and when you make plays like that it’s easy from there — one pass, two passes, it’s in the back of the net,” White said. “That’s kind of how we’ve been playing in the fall and in the preseason, we want to play fast and we want to score goals.”
The cold weather and snow flurries in Charlottesville couldn’t slow a Virginia offense that came out shooting hot on its way to an early 3-0 lead. A rip from Emery 21 seconds into the game started the festivities, and O’Reilly joined the party two minutes later by beating his man around the right side of the cage off of an end line restart for his first of two goals on the day. O’Reilly would then score again with 4:10 remaining in the first quarter on an assist from redshirt sophomore attackman Owen Van Arsdale.
“We’re going to ask a lot of [O’Reilly], he steps into some big shoes,” Starsia said. “We have no expectations of him being the next Steele Stanwick, if he can just be Nick O’Reilly that’ll be fine. But a nice first day for him, I thought he did a pretty good job controlling the tempo of play for us offensively throughout the day.”
Drexel finally got on the board with just under three minutes left in the quarter on a goal by freshman midfielder Frank Fusco. White blew a high, fast shot by Drexel freshman goalie Will Gabrielson to open the second quarter scoring, but Drexel stormed back by scoring four unanswered goals. Junior attackman Nick Trizano tied the game at 4-4 with less than two minutes remaining before finding junior midfielder Ben McIntosh open on the crease with eight seconds left to play in the half. McIntosh converted to take a one-goal lead heading into the break.
Virginia came out strong after halftime, recording a pair of unassisted goals by senior attackman Matt Cockerton and junior midfielder Pat Harbeson. Cockerton picked up a White rebound in front of the goal and finished to tie the game, while Harbeson beat his man down the left alley one minute later to retake the lead.
The lead would change again as the teams traded goals, with Drexel tallying a pair of man-up goals from sophomore attackman Andrew Vivian and McIntosh’s third score on the day. The Cavaliers tied the game at 8-8 heading into the fourth quarter when they picked up two more goals from White and junior midfielder Bobby Hill, both assisted by O’Reilly.
“Our guys did a great job cutting off-ball when [Drexel] would slide,” O’Reilly said. “Guys [got] to open positions and I was just lucky enough to find the lanes and get them the ball.”
A combined eight goals were scored in the final quarter, with Van Arsdale, Streep and sophomore midfielder Mick Parks each scoring their first goal of the season and White adding his third of the game. Van Arsdale’s goal came on a cross-crease feed from O’Reilly when the Cavaliers were down a man, as sophomore defenseman Greg Danseglio pushed the ball up field to create the fast break opportunity. After Drexel knotted the game up at 12-12, Virginia quickly secured the victory in sudden death.
The win was especially important for Marino, who became only the seventh first-year starter at goalie in program history since 1971, when lacrosse became an NCAA Championship sport. Five of the other six goalies went on to win NCAA titles, including Cavalier greats Tillman Johnson and Adam Ghitelman. Marino recorded 15 saves in his first collegiate start, breaking the previous record of 12 for the most saves ever by a Virginia goalkeeper against Drexel.
“A lot of things were going through my head as soon as I walked out of that locker room,” Marino said. “The blizzard right before the game freaked me out a little bit… but we played well and I had a great first quarter. It was an unbelievable experience.”
The Cavaliers return to Klöckner Stadium Tuesday night at 7 p.m. to faceoff against in-state opponent VMI.