The scene Saturday night was not reminiscent of the usual lacrosse played at Klöckner Stadium. As the first half came to a close, the wind began to blow and snow began to fall.
But as the field became a winter wonderland, Virginia turned into a well-oiled machine. Despite the added complexities of using yellow balls to contrast with the newly white ground, having to clean the snow out of the spikes of their cleats and worrying about the length of their strides so they did not slip, the Virginia players embraced the added challenges.
“The snow was pretty fun,” freshman defenseman Logan Greco said.
And thanks to its adaptability, No. 9 Virginia (2-0) used sound, fundamental defense and an attack-oriented offense to build its 8-6 halftime lead into a 14-10 victory against No. 18 Drexel (0-1).
“When conditions deteriorate like this, it becomes more of a game of effort and desire,” coach Dom Starsia said. “I thought the play in the second half was pretty clean anyway, but I thought we came out with some good energy in the second half and carried the play to them.”
The first six minutes of the game, however, certainly were not what the Cavaliers had hoped for. After winning the opening faceoff, Drexel got on the board first when junior midfielder Jules Raucci beat Virginia sophomore defender Carlson Milikin and fired in a shot.
The Dragons would add two more quick goals to take a 3-0 lead with 5:26 remaining in the first quarter. But after that run, the young Cavalier defense was able to shore up its communication and slowly begin to shut down the Drexel offense.
“Talk is very key for us defensively,” Greco said. “Throughout the game we just started talking more.”
With 3:47 to play in the first, Virginia started a run of its own when sophomore attackman Ryan Lukacovic fed senior midfielder Tyler German on the crease and German faked out Drexel junior goalie Will Gabrielsen to net his first goal of the season. Junior midfielder Greg Coholan followed suit 53 seconds later with a rip of his own.
Drexel responded with another goal to take a 4-2 lead, but the Cavaliers again answered when senior attackman Owen Van Arsdale scored with 1:35 to play, cutting the deficit to one at the end of the first quarter.
Just 15 seconds into the second quarter, German evened the game at four on a fast-break goal. And 24 seconds after that, senior midfielder Ryan Tucker gave Virginia its first lead of the game.
Both teams then weathered a scoring drought that lasted nearly 10 minutes before Tucker used a swim move to blow past his defender and crank a shot past Gabrielsen with 5:50 to play, spotting Virginia a 6-4 lead after its 4-0 run.
The teams traded scores to close out the first half. Following a Drexel extra-man goal with 5:19 to play, sophomore midfielder Zed Williams answered with his only goal of the night with 3:45 remaining, giving Virginia a 7-5 lead.
After a Raucci goal for Drexel with 2:05 to play, junior attackman James Pannell netted his first score of the season with 26 seconds remaining to give Virginia an 8-6 halftime lead.
But then the snow started to fall, delaying the start of the second half for 15 minutes as the grounds crew blew the snow off the boundary lines. Still, Starsia and his players did not mind the conditions.
“It felt very old-school,” Starsia said.
Drexel took the second half’s opening faceoff and held possession for nearly five minutes, taking nine shots in the process. But after slipping on a now-blanketed field, the Cavaliers scooped up the ground ball, sparking a 3-0 run that took just 62 seconds. Pannell, Van Arsdale and sophomore midfielder Jeff Kratky each scored to gain an 11-6 lead less than seven minutes into the second half.
“We probably won the game in the first 10 minutes of the third quarter,” Starsia said.
Dexel finally found the scoreboard with 3:52 remaining in the third, but Williams fed Lukacovic on the crease less than two minutes later to maintain a five-goal advantage.
Drexel tallied a goal to come within four at the end of the third quarter, but Virginia responded strongly again to start the fourth. Lukacovic scored just 37 seconds in, and with 12:33 to play, during a man advantage, Van Arsdale netted a hat trick with a low-to-high rip from 10 yards out.
The Dragons scored two more goals before all was said and done, but it was nowhere near enough to overcome the ever-consistent Cavaliers.
Despite struggling again at the faceoff X, winning just 11 of 28 attempts, Virginia controlled possession. In addition to Van Arsdale’s three scores, Pannell, Tucker and Lukacovic tallied two goals and two assists each as Virginia’s retooled offense continues to move in the right direction after a season-opening win against No. 7 Loyola.
“I think everybody has accepted their role and we’ve been practicing so much that it doesn’t really seem like new faces,” Lukacovic said. “The guys seem like they’ve been doing it for a while.”
The Cavaliers will next face Rutgers Saturday in Piscataway, New Jersey. Faceoff is scheduled for 1 p.m.