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MLax: ACC Championship bid falls short

The Virginia men’s lacrosse team entered last weekend’s ACC Championship needing a pair of wins to finish above .500 and be eligible for an at-large selection to the NCAA Tournament. And though the team managed to notch its first ACC win of the season Friday, its upset bid ran out of gas midway through Sunday’s championship game against North Carolina, effectively ending a difficult season for the Cavaliers.

After losing to No. 2 Maryland (9-3) 9-7 at Klöckner Stadium during the regular season, Virginia (7-8) never trailed during its 13-6 defeat of the top-seeded Terrapins Friday, advancing to the finals for the first time since 2010. Senior midfielder Matt White scored a game-high six points on three goals and three assists, while junior attackman Mark Cockerton added four goals. Junior attackman Nick O’Reilly also contributed four points, on two goals and two assists.

No. 1 North Carolina (12-3) barely escaped No. 5 Duke (11-5) Friday, 18-17. With the Tar Heels leading 15-7 in the third quarter, the Blue Devils went on an 10-1 run to take a one-goal lead with 6:12 left to play in the game. However, sophomore attackman Jimmy Bitter and senior attackman Marcus Holman would each score in the game’s final five minutes to avoid a collapse against their hated rivals. The 35 combined goals set a new ACC Championship single-game record.

Sunday, the Cavaliers led briefly in the first two quarters of the championship game, but North Carolina would break a 7-7 tie with a 5-0 run that spanned from the end of the second quarter and into the third. Though White would cut the deficit to two goals midway through the fourth with his seventh goal of the day, North Carolina would tack on two more before Cockerton capped the scoring with his third goal of the game.

Holman was named the Championship’s MVP after assisting on five goals Sunday, while also becoming North Carolina’s all-time points leader with 207 points. Senior midfielder Davey Emala added a team-high four goals and an assist for the Tar Heels, who won their first title since 1996, ending the longest drought of any current ACC team.

White’s nine goals and 13 points on the weekend both set new ACC Championship records, while O’Reilly, who tallied a goal and seven assists Sunday, broke the ACC Championship assist record with nine. White, Cockerton, O’Reilly and senior defenseman Harry Prevas, who caused seven turnovers and grabbed 14 groundballs in the two games, were named to the ACC All-Tournament team for Virginia.