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No. 5 Cavaliers dominate Scarlet Knights, remain undefeated

Tucker scores career-best five goals, Van Arsdale tallies career-high six points

	<p>Junior midfielder Ryan Tucker scored a career-high five goals and added an assist to lead the No. 5 Cavaliers to victory Saturday against Rutgers, 19-12.</p>

Junior midfielder Ryan Tucker scored a career-high five goals and added an assist to lead the No. 5 Cavaliers to victory Saturday against Rutgers, 19-12.

After a seemingly slow start, fifth-ranked Virginia men’s lacrosse team managed to buckle down and find momentum to fuel a 19-12 victory against Rutgers Saturday night at Klöckner Stadium. With this win, the Cavaliers improve to 4-0 for the seventh straight season.

The Scarlet Knights (2-1) struck first when junior midfielder Rich Rambo put one past freshman goalkeeper Matt Barrett to give his team an early lead. The Cavaliers responded with a pair of goals, including senior midfielder Chris LaPierre’s first since 2012 after suffering a knee injury last season. But they were unable to hold onto the lead for long.

One minute after LaPierre’s goal, Rutgers evened the score with an extra man strike from senior attackman Scott Klimchak. The Scarlet Knights scored twice more to double their lead to 4-2, but the Cavaliers would not let the first quarter end quietly. With three seconds left in the period, senior midfielder Rob Emery scored to bring the game within one goal.

Klimchak started the second period with back-to-back goals that extended the Scarlet Knights’ lead 6-3. Junior midfielder Ryan Tucker would answer with the first of a game- and career-high five goals at 11:23.

The Scarlet Knights managed to regain their three-goal advantage, but this was their last significant lead of the night. Tucker sparked the Virginia offense, capping a first-half hat trick with a last-second shot assisted by senior attackman Mark Cockerton to give the Cavaliers a slim 9-8 advantage going into the half.

“It was big to get the lead and it was a good feeling for us going into the locker room,” Tucker said. “Up a goal, we wanted to keep the pressure on and keep that lead going into the second half.”

The momentum of the game permanently shifted in Virginia’s favor, as the team would not relinquish their lead from this point forward. Improvements in ground balls were key to the Cavalier’s second-half success, translating into more possessions and increased success in finding the net.

“The single biggest difference was our play off the ground,” coach Dom Starsia said. “Our defenders got every ball up and our offensive guys were riding the ball back.”

Junior attackman Owen Van Arsdale opened the third quarter by scoring his second goal of the night to give the Cavaliers a 10-8 advantage.

Apart from a lone goal by Rambo, Barrett had a quiet period in comparison to Rutgers sophomore goalkeeper Kris Alleyne. Alleyne saw 19 shots to Barrett’s three, allowing five straight goals from five different Cavaliers. The quarter ended with Tucker’s fifth and final goal from sophomore midfielder Greg Coholan to increase Virginia’s lead to 14-9.

“We patched up some of the little things we did wrong in the first half,” Tucker said. “[We] did well in the transition game, really hustling to the ground balls and [it was] just an overall great effort.”

Less than two minutes into the fourth quarter, sophomore attackman James Pannell extended the Cavaliers’ scoring streak to six by netting his first goal of the night on an assist from Van Arsdale. Senior midfielder Nicholas DePaolera quickly answered to end the Scarlet Knights’ scoring draught. Trying to stage a late comeback, Rutgers netted two straight goals against Barrett to cut the Cavalier lead 15-12.

“I was sweating it out until late in the game,” Starsia said. “There were only a couple minutes to play before I thought, ‘Okay I think we got this one, finally.’”

Sophomore defender Nate Menninger crushed any chance of a Rutgers comeback when scored his first career goal at 10:36 to end the Scarlet Knights’ three-goal run. Menninger also proved an answer to Virginia’s recent faceoff issues, going 9-for-15 on the night.

“We had been working on some creative things facing off,” Starsia said. “Nate was one of the options we were going to and it just seemed it was working for us.”

Virginia scored two more goals and Pannell ended the night with a hat trick, burying a pass from Van Arsdale to seal the win for the Cavaliers. Van Arsdale’s assist marked a career-high in both points and assists for the junior attackman, with six and four, respectively.

The Cavaliers have become accustomed to close games this season, and the seven-goal margin was a change they gladly accepted.

“It’s good to get some tough wins early like the first three,” Van Arsdale said. “It’s also nice to be able to pull one out. When you’re the stronger team you’re playing a little better that day, not letting up and keeping your foot on the gas like we did in the fourth quarter.”

The Cavaliers return to action Tuesday when they travel to Emmitsburg, Md. for a midweek matchup against Mount St. Mary’s. Faceoff is scheduled for 4 p.m.