The third-seeded Virginia men’s lacrosse team defeated second-seeded Duke Saturday in the semifinal round of the 2019 NCAA Division I Men’s Lacrosse Championship Tournament.
After a back-and-forth affair, the Cavaliers (16-3, 3-1 ACC) scored five of the last six goals to outlast the Blue Devils (13-5, 2-2 ACC) in the second overtime period.
With the win, Virginia advances to the national title game for the first time since 2011 when the Cavaliers won their fifth championship.
The Cavaliers opened the scoring less than four minutes into the game courtesy of senior midfielder Ryan Conrad. Conrad delivered the goal off a helper from junior midfielder Dox Aitken after Virginia sophomore goalkeeper Alex Rode made back-to-back saves at the other end.
While Duke equalized through senior midfielder Brad Smith, Conrad scored his second goal of the game to retake the lead for the Cavaliers.
No team scored in the final 4:55 of the first period as the low-scoring quarter came to an end.
Even though Virginia held the early advantage after the first 15 minutes, Duke used a dominant second quarter to take the lead. Through a 4-0 Duke run, the Blue Devils took a 5-2 lead going into halftime.
The two teams traded goals early in the third quarter before back-to-back Duke goals gave the Blue Devils an 8-4 lead with 7:03 remaining in the period.
However, before Duke could add any more to its lead, Virginia scored three consecutive goals to end the quarter and cut the deficit to just one.
Duke came out firing on all cylinders in the fourth quarter, scoring a pair of goals in just over one minute. Virginia responded with a transition goal from sophomore attackman Ian Laviano before Duke restored the three-goal lead as Smith completed his hat-trick.
However, once again, the Cavaliers answered back as Aitken scored twice in under 60 seconds to cut Duke’s lead to 11-10.
Virginia was seconds away from completing a tremendous defensive stand to shut down Duke but a shot by junior midfielder Kevin Quigley snuck its way into the net at the end of the shot clock.
Backs against the wall, the Cavaliers, down 12-10 with less than a minute left in regulation, used a late flurry to get back into the game.
Junior attackman Michael Kraus hammered home his first goal of the match on a cut to make it a one-goal game. Then, with just 15 seconds left, Laviano scored the game-tying goal off an assist from Moore.
Though the fourth quarter seemed to be done and dusted, Virginia freshman midfielder and faceoff specialist Petey LaSalla won yet another faceoff and immediately sprinted at the Duke goal. Two passes later, Kraus had a point-blank opportunity to score but placed the ball just wide of the cage, effectively sending the game to overtime.
Both teams traded possessions in the first overtime period with multiple shots hitting the pipe and saves on both ends. Despite a combined seven shots in the period, neither team scored in the four minutes and the game headed to a second overtime period.
LaSalla won the opening faceoff to start off the second overtime period, giving Virginia the first possession. Laviano and Moore combined once again on the game-winner as Laviano scored his fourth of the match to send Virginia to its 12th national title game.
On offense, the Cavaliers were led by Laviano with four goals on seven shots, and Aitken with three goals and an assist. While Kraus was quiet on the scoring side for most of the game, he dished out four assists and scored an important goal late in the fourth quarter.
Conrad and Moore — who recorded a combined six points — were also key contributors. Moore’s two goals in the third quarter were critical for Virginia to stay in the game and Conrad’s ground balls late in the game provided the spark the Virginia attack needed.
However, Virginia’s comeback wouldn’t have been possible if not for the play of Rode and LaSalla. Rode recorded 19 saves during the match — each more important than the last. LaSalla, going up against a very good faceoff man, won the last eight faceoffs and continually gave the Cavaliers scoring opportunities down the stretch.
By pulling off the upset, the Cavaliers secured their first 16-win season since 2010 and have an opportunity to win their sixth national title in just a couple of days.
Virginia will next play in the NCAA championship game Monday against fifth-seeded Yale. The final game will be played at 1 p.m. at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pa.