Men’s lacrosse seeks elusive win against No. 2 Duke
Virginia victory vital for conference tournament hopes
After losing to ACC rival No. 4 North Carolina in the final minutes of last weekend’s game, the No. 8 Virginia men’s lacrosse team returns home to face No. 2 Duke in the Cavaliers’ last chance of the season to improve its ACC regular season record.
The Cavaliers made winning ground balls and faceoffs a priority after the Maryland loss, but still could not come away with the win against No. 4 Carolina. Virginia (8-4, 1-3 ACC) fell 11-10 to the Tar Heels (9-2, 2-2 ACC) despite winning the shot, ground ball, faceoff and saves battles. The game-winning goal came from a faceoff won by the Tar Heels with 2:28 left in the game. The Cavaliers won the next faceoff, but lost the ball soon after to bring their total turnovers to 17 in the game, four more than UNC.
“We’ve dwelled mostly this week on our own performance and taking care of business tomorrow night,” Virginia coach Dom Starsia said. “If we could beat Duke, it would be a significant win for us.”
The Cavaliers have not won a conference game in over a month, last beating Syracuse, 17-12, March 1. Since then, the Cavaliers have lost four of six games, placing them last in conference standings and desperately in need of a win in order to qualify for the four-team ACC Championship.
“Our backs are finally up against the wall, and this is a must-win for us,” senior midfielder Bobby Hill said.
Starsia, however, said he has not dwelled on whether the game is a must-win or not.
“I feel like there’s a lot of lacrosse to be played out there,” Starsia said. “It just comes up that it’s Duke, and they’re one of the best teams on our schedule and it comes up in a period where there are a lot of important games to play.”
Unlike Virginia, Duke (10-2, 3-1 ACC) has won six straight and joins No. 3 Maryland atop the conference standings.
For the seventh time this season, the Blue Devils held their opponent to under 10 goals when they beat No. 10 Notre Dame 15-7, last Saturday. Senior attackman Jordan Wolf was responsible for seven of Duke’s 15 goals, scoring three and assisting four more. For his efforts, he was named the ACC Offensive Player of the week. Wolf is second in the nation in goals scored.
Duke sophomore goalie and first-year starter Luke Aaron was also named the ACC Defensive Player of the Week for the first time in his career. In addition to saving 10 shots and holding the Fighting Irish to fewer than 10 goals, Aaron also picked up a career-high five ground balls.
“They’re just relentless,” Hill said. “They come out and attack you all over the field, they don’t let you have your space. They’re big, they’re athletic, but we just have to turn that around and attack them just as hard as they come out and attack us.”
The Cavaliers have not won a regular season game against the Blue Devils since 2004. Since then, Virginia has lost 13 of the last 14 meetings between the programs. The Cavaliers’ sole win came in the 2010 ACC Tournament, the last time the Cavaliers won the conference tournament.
“It definitely lights a fire that the only people that have beaten Duke are our fifth-year seniors,” Hill said. “Duke in-and-of-itself is a matchup that gets you thinking and makes your mark you calendar, but knowing this could be our last chance to beat these guys has definitely been something to think about all week.
“They’ve always had our number and we felt like last year that game got away from us in the fourth quarter and we played them the best that we’ve played them since I’ve been here,” Hill continued. “We need to play a complete game tomorrow and finish them off.”
Faceoff is set for 6 p.m. Friday at Klöckner Stadium.