The No. 8 Virginia men’s lacrosse team narrowly survived a Tuesday afternoon matchup against an upstart Vermont squad, scoring the last two goals of the game to escape with a 12-10 victory.
The Catamounts (1-4) took the lead with 1:53 left to play in the first quarter and did not trail again until Virginia sophomore defenseman Greg Danseglio notched his first career goal to put the Cavaliers (5-1) ahead for good. Danseglio caught a pass from junior midfielder Bobby Hill in his own end and scorched his way down the field, beating freshman goalie Justin Rosenberg.
“We had a great defensive stand, a good pass from Bobby Hill, and I had the green light in transition to push it,” Danseglio said. “It kind of just happened. I was looking to feed [redshirt junior attackman] Nick O’Reilly, our point guy, but someone was crashing on him so I just decided to run past my guy and try to get one for us.”
Virginia is now 6-0 all-time against Vermont, but the two-goal margin of victory was its slimmest ever. The close game surprised many in attendance, but Virginia coach Dom Starsia was not among them.
“I’m the eternal pessimist,” Starsia said. “So it’s not the game I hoped for, but in a lot of ways it’s the game I expected. I’m disappointed in my team that we didn’t play with more emotion … [and] passion. We always play hard, [but] I don’t feel like we brought that kind of effort tonight.”
An unusual starting lineup took the field for Virginia, with sophomore Rhody Heller stepping in between the pipes for his first career start in place of freshman goaltender Dan Marino. Redshirt freshman midfielder Greg Coholan and freshman attackman James Pannell also recorded their first starts, instead of junior attackman Mark Cockerton and sophomore midfielder Ryan Tucker. All three benched starters would later enter the game, with Marino relieving Heller after the latter was charged with a slash with 2:26 left to play in the second quarter.
“Coach’s decision is what [the lineup change] was,” Starsia said. “There are little lessons that need to be learned, and this was a case of that.”
The story of the first half was long offensive possessions for the Catamounts and few shots for the home team. The Cavaliers jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first five minutes of play, thanks to an underhanded bounce shot by redshirt sophomore attackman Owen Van Arsdale and an easy goal from the crease from O’Reilly, assisted by Van Arsdale.
Despite the early Virginia success, Vermont outshot the Cavaliers 13-5 in the first quarter and erased the Cavalier lead. Senior attackman A.J. Masson caught Virginia’s defense out of position off a restart and dished to sophomore midfielder Tim Yager to get on the board with 9:18 remaining in the quarter. The barrage of shots yielded two more goals for the Catamounts, who entered the second quarter up 3-2.
It was then that Cockerton, the nation’s leading scorer with 19 goals coming into the week, entered the game and quickly made his presence felt by face-dodging right past his man to deliver an easy bounce shot to tie the game. Vermont then went on a three-goal run, beginning with junior midfielder Thomas Martin recording his first goal of the season at the 10:11 mark. Yager’s second strike of the game came at 5:43, and just more than a minute later, he added a third after putting back his own rebound to give his team a 6-3 advantage.
“Their long offensive possessions might have lulled us to sleep a little bit,” Danseglio said. “I think we did better in the second half. We came out with a little more fire and aggressiveness, and we forced them to do things that they didn’t want to do.”
Senior midfielder Matt White netted a hard overhand shot past Rosenberg off an assist from junior midfielder Rob Emery with 3:50 to play in the half. Less than a minute later, he struck again on an assist from Cockerton, cutting the deficit to one goal entering halftime.
All three goals scored in the third quarter came while the stall warning was in effect. Junior attackman Grant Horvath barely beat the shot clock from in close to push the Catamount lead back to two, but Van Arsdale would respond with a goal off an assist from O’Reilly. Two minutes later, Van Arsdale assisted on Coholan’s second goal of 2013.
Entering the final quarter tied at 7, Vermont appeared to take a decided edge behind a man-up goal from Horvath after freshman defender Tanner Scales was sent to the box for a slash. Yager then netted his game-high fourth goal of the game.
But Pannell delivered the tying goal on an assist from senior midfielder Charlie Streep. Pannell’s strike was sandwiched between a pair of Emery-assisted tallies from Tucker, both of which wowed the crowd with the incredible velocity on the midfielder’s shot.
Down 10-9, Vermont senior attackman Drew Philie tied the game one last time with 4:45 to play, but Danseglio would pry the lead away 31 seconds later. Van Arsdale then dished to a wide-open Emery, who contributed an insurance goal on a hard bounce shot from the top left of the restraining box with 1:31 to play. After failing to record an assist for the first time this season against Syracuse, Van Arsdale tied Emery Tuesday for the game-high with three.
“That’s what we pride ourselves on — our ball movement,” Van Arsdale said. “In the second half, we started carrying the play to them a little bit more, started picking up the ground balls, then we were able to force the play a little bit. It’s good to know that we can dig deep and take care of things when we’re not having our way early on.”
Though he was less than content with his team’s performance, Starsia still took the opportunity to joke about the tight game and Vermont coach Ryan Curtis — a former captain, All-American, national champion and NCAA Defenseman of the Year at Virginia under Starsia.
“I love having these guys back; it was great seeing Ryan,” Starsia said. “So the first thing I said to him when we shook hands was, ‘We’re dropping you, if that’s how you’re going to treat us.’”