No. 8 lacrosse crushes Keydets 21-3
Lukacovic puts up four goals and five assists in Cavaliers' blowout victory
The No. 8 Virginia men’s lacrosse team routed in-state foe VMI with a final score of 21-3. The Cavaliers are now 21-0 versus VMI, going back to 1949 when the series began.
Although Virginia (8-2, 1-1 ACC) clearly dominates this rivalry, this year’s edition could have proven to be a tricky one. The Keydets (1-9, 0-2 A-Sun) were sandwiched in the schedule by juggernauts No. 9 Johns Hopkins and No. 4 Maryland, giving the contest all of the makings of a trap game.
However, once the opening whistle blew, it was clear to everyone in Klöckner Stadium that the Cavaliers had not overlooked the Keydets. They scored early and they scored often to jump out to a huge first quarter lead.
Junior midfielder Ryan Tucker opened the scoring frenzy with a tally less than two minutes into the game. He was soon joined on the scorer’s sheet by all of the rest of starting attackmen in sophomore James Pannell, senior Mark Cockerton, junior Owen Van Arsdale and freshman Ryan Lukacovic to make the score 9-0 after one quarter.
“We treat every game like a big game,” Lukacovic said. “We go into every game the same way. We prepare the same way for every team we play.”
The Keydets unfortunately were unable to use the intermission between the quarters to their advantage, as Lukacovic quickly tallied at the start of the second to complete his early game hat trick.
Just more than a minute later, the list of scorers grew with a tally from sophomore midfielder Zach Wood. With the lead at 11-0, coach Dom Starsia began substituting just about everyone, and no starters were left in the game halfway through the second quarter.
“It was really nice to get some young guys out there and get them some experience,” Starsia said. “We’ve played so many close games that we haven’t had a chance to substitute as much as we would’ve liked earlier in the year.”
For those unfamiliar with Virginia’s roster, though, there was no indication virtually every player on the field for the Cavaliers was freshman or sophomore after the first quarter. The team continued its onslaught, with freshman attackman AJ Fish making the score 12-0 before VMI was finally able to stop the bleeding with a tally at the 8:40 mark of the second quarter.
“Even when we started to substitute, we kept the bar pretty high,” Starsia said. “I thought our performance never really dropped off, so that was really good.”
The Cavaliers took a 13-2 lead into the locker rooms for halftime having received goals from seven different players. However, the team was not satisfied and they came out in the second half with the same intensity with which they began.
Lukacovic and fellow freshman attackman Joe French put on a show in the third quarter, with the two working together to score the frame’s first three goals. Lukacovic found French three times in the quarter to help the Toronto, Ontario native record his first collegiate hat trick — a trio of goals which included an incredible spinning, one-handed laser that pinned the top corner.
“Me and Joe are both first-years, so we’ve been playing together throughout practice this whole year, so we’ve been building some chemistry and I think that showed tonight,” Lukacovic said.
The stellar connection between the freshmen duo — aided by unassisted tallies from Wood, Fish, and another freshman attackman Jeff Kratky — allowed for Virginia to hold a commanding 20-2 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
Virginia made virtually its only mistake of the night in the first minute of the fourth quarter, when senior goaltender Matt Robertson left the cage to receive a pass that was intercepted by a Keydet, who promptly put the ball in the empty net to bring the score to 20-3. This, however, was the last legitimate opportunity VMI had in the Cavalier zone. Scoring for the game was capped off with just more than 11 minutes to play when Lukacovic again found French in front of the cage for his fifth goal of the evening.
By the time the final horn sounded, Virginia had had nine different players score a goal and seven different players record an assist. The clear star of the evening, however, was Lukacovic, who scored four goals and added five assists for the Cavaliers. These numbers are particularly impressive due to the fact that the freshman only had four goals and one assist on the season prior to Monday’s game.
“He is someone who, frankly, I thought would’ve been out there a little bit more for us up to this point,” Starsia said. “We’ve been trying to find ways to get him out there. Especially in these last two games, he’s made the most of his time. I think you’re going to see him have a greater presence for us as the season goes on.”
Virginia is back in action March 30 at noon when they travel to College Park to take on the fourth-ranked Terrapins.