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No. 7 men’s lacrosse drops close contest at No. 4 Notre Dame

<p>Sophomore midfielder Dox Aitken had two goals and an assist in Virginia's loss to Notre Dame.</p>

Sophomore midfielder Dox Aitken had two goals and an assist in Virginia's loss to Notre Dame.

Saturday was an absolutely critical game for the No. 7 Virginia men’s lacrosse team, as it traveled to South Bend, Ind. to take on the Fighting Irish on St. Patrick’s Day.

Unfortunately, No. 4 Notre Dame’s (4-1, 1-0 ACC) first period explosion and stingy fourth period defense proved to be too much for Virginia, as the Cavaliers (6-2, 0-2 ACC) fell 9-7.

Virginia will continue its search for its first ACC victory in four years, last beating Syracuse under Coach Dom Starsia in 2014.

The Cavaliers battled against a strong Notre Dame team, and they were not helped by a sluggish start that saw the Fighting Irish quickly advance to a 4-0 lead only 4:38 into the game.

In what has been a common theme to Virginia’s offense this year, sophomore attackman Michael Kraus put the team on his back with four first-half goals to bring the score to 6-4 at half.

It was all Cavaliers in the third, as they took their first lead of the game at 7-6, led by two goals from sophomore midfielder Dox Aitken. Continued solid play in the fourth would have led Virginia to its first conference victory in what would have been a huge confidence boost for the team.

But the Fighting Irish refused to back down on their home turf, clamping down in the fourth period. They scored two goals to start the period, and a late goal by junior midfielder Brendan Gleason all but clinched Notre Dame’s victory.

While Virginia has now lost twice in ACC play, its prospects of winning this year are promising, as they’ve stayed close in both conference contests. However, the Cavaliers are certainly hurting from the absence of junior midfielder and captain Ryan Conrad. The edge Conrad provides in winning ground balls was absent Saturday, as Virginia lost 33-29 in ground balls won.

The Cavaliers will have to bounce back quickly, as they return to Klöckner Stadium Tuesday at 7 p.m. to take on a strong Dartmouth team, which will be followed up by a classic rivalry clash against Johns Hopkins at home Saturday.