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No. 9 men’s lacrosse hangs on to take down No. 6 Notre Dame 12-11

The Cavaliers recorded their first ACC victory of the season in a thriller that saw senior midfielder Dox Aitken score the game-winning goal

<p>Senior midfielder Dox Aitken's game-winning goal was the eighth of his season and 129th of his illustrious career.&nbsp;</p>

Senior midfielder Dox Aitken's game-winning goal was the eighth of his season and 129th of his illustrious career. 

Virginia men’s lacrosse took down Notre Dame in a 12-11 nail-biter Saturday afternoon at Arlotta Stadium in South Bend, Ind. The No. 9 Cavaliers (7-1, 1-2 ACC) defeated a higher-ranked Fighting Irish (4-1, 0-1 ACC) squad that stood at No. 6 in the nation after winning its first four games in the season. Virginia senior midfielder Dox Aitken recorded the game-winning goal with just 2:28 remaining in the contest, and the Cavaliers held on to win by just one goal.

Virginia came out of the gates hot, taking a 3-0 lead in the first quarter. Aitken opened up scoring for the Cavaliers, with sophomore midfielder Peter Garno and senior attackman Matt Moore also adding tallies in the first frame.

The Fighting Irish then proceeded to wake up in the second quarter, recording four unanswered goals to take a 4-3 lead. Graduate attackman Will Yorke registered a hat trick during the Notre Dame run, scoring three goals in just over two minutes. 

Both teams traded goals to end the quarter, with Virginia sophomore attackman Payton Cormier and senior attackman Ian Laviano getting on the board with goals for the Cavaliers. The Fighting Irish proceeded to take a 7-5 lead into the locker room at the half.

After the break, the Cavaliers were able to come out hot, with Cormier and Laviano both finding themselves with goals, the former netting his second and third of the contest. Yorke was able to stop the Cavalier run with his fourth goal of the game, but Cormier and Laviano each recorded goals yet again to push the Cavalier lead to 10-8 with just 15 minutes left in the contest.

Notre Dame freshman midfielder Eric Dobson opened up the fourth quarter with his second goal of the contest, pulling the Fighting Irish within one goal. Cormier then tallied his fifth goal of the afternoon, giving him five goals for the second consecutive week. He also has at least a hat trick in nine of his 15 career games and a team-leading 27 goals on the year.

Dobson and Yorke were able to tie things up for the Fighting Irish with just 3:24 left in the final period. With things knotted at 11 apiece, Aitken took matters into his own hands with a smooth swim-dodge on an isolation play, firing an overhand high-to-high shot past Notre Dame sophomore goalie Liam Entenmann to take the lead. 

The Cavaliers would never relinquish the lead, despite a costly turnover with just 30 seconds remaining to give the Fighting Irish one final desperation attempt to tie the game. Yorke’s shot at the buzzer was saved by senior goalie Alex Rode, who ended the afternoon with nine saves.

“Our whole offense clicked together,” Cormier said. “We had Dox [Aitken] being a feeder and a shooter today which was really good to see. He was finding those open lanes.”

For Virginia, a must-needed road ACC win was earned on Saturday. In a conference that has every single team in the top 10 in the nation, every victory counts when it comes to NCAA Tournament seeding. With losses to No. 4 Syracuse and No. 2 North Carolina already on the schedule, the Cavaliers turned things around with a gutsy victory over a conference foe.

“At the University of Virginia, a member of the ACC, it’s really critical that we play at a high level against our conference opponents,” Coach Lars Tiffany said. “This is our best team victory of the season. It is pure elation to earn a victory here today.”

The Cavaliers look to build upon this performance Saturday against in-state rival No. 20 Richmond. Faceoff is set for 5 p.m. at Klockner Stadium and the game will be televised on ACC Network Extra.