No. 11 men’s lacrosse knocks of No. 12 Syracuse 11-10 to advance to ACC Championship Game

The Cavaliers pulled away in a hard-fought battle against the Orange

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Sophomore midfielder Dox Aitken scored a goal right before halftime to put the Cavaliers ahead by one, 5-4.

Emma Klein | Cavalier Daily

The No. 11 Virginia men’s lacrosse team advanced to Sunday’s ACC Championship final with their win Friday night over No. 12 Syracuse, 11-10. The Cavaliers will meet No. 3 seed Notre Dame in the championship game, who advanced with a win over No. 2 seed Duke.

Like most games between the Cavaliers (11-4, 1-3 ACC) and the Orange (7-6, 4-0 ACC), this contest went down to the wire, with Virginia ultimately able to hold on to their slim two-goal lead entering the fourth frame.

After losing a one-goal game at Klöckner earlier in the year against Syracuse, a game that could’ve gone both ways, Virginia came up with a big win with high stakes on the line Friday night.

“It’s taken a lot of cultural Tuesdays and a lot of work to get to this point, where the men truly trust each other and believe in the system,” Coach Lars Tiffany said. “What you saw tonight was a Virginia lacrosse team that is really bonding, and playing at a higher level when the pressure is on.”

The first half was back-and-forth, with Virginia sophomore attackman Michael Kraus putting on a clinic. Kraus finished the first half with five points, two goals and three assists. Kraus assisted a goal scored by sophomore midfielder Dox Aitken to put the Cavaliers ahead by one, 5-4, going into halftime.

Virginia never trailed after halftime, using dominant faceoff play from sophomore transfer Justin Schwenk to give the Cavaliers the upper hand in possession. Schwenk was 16-for-23 at the faceoff X on the night, allowing him to break the program record for most faceoff wins in a season. Schwenk now has 216 faceoff wins on the season.

“Give Justin Schwenk a ton of credit,” Tiffany said. “The play at the faceoff X was a big difference. Syracuse’s offense is very potent, and if they get enough opportunities, they’re going to put the ball in the net.”

Freshman midfielder Matt Moore also played a crucial role in the Cavaliers’ victory, finishing with four goals on the night. Three of the four came in the second half, and Moore provided the offensive spark Virginia needed to close things out.

“It was a breakout game for [Moore],” Kraus said. “[He] didn’t play like a freshman.”

After picking up its biggest victory in the season, Virginia has little time for rest. The Cavaliers will take on Notre Dame at Klöckner in the ACC Championship final.

“With such a short turnaround, we’re going to have to rely on our confidence and this momentum to be able to play our best,” Kraus said.

The Cavaliers lost against the Fighting Irish 9-7 earlier in the season, but are in a very different place now.

Both teams will be brimming with confidence, with Virginia taking down Syracuse and Notre Dame defeating Duke 14-11 — a team that beat them 8-2 just three weeks earlier.

The No. 3 seed Irish and No. 4 seed Cavaliers will meet Sunday at noon in a highly anticipated clash at Klöckner Stadium to determine the 2018 ACC Champion.

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