In rainy weather Friday evening in Klöckner Stadium, No. 4 Duke men’s lacrosse took an early lead and maintained it the entire way en route to a 16-14 victory over No. 1 Virginia. The Cavaliers (7-2, 1-1 ACC) came into this game hoping to break a regular-season losing streak to the Blue Devils (10-1, 3-0 ACC) but failed to stop a stretch that now stands at 17 games.
Virginia saw strong performances from senior attacker Payton Cormier and senior midfielder Xander Dickson, who had six and four goals, respectively. After going down 2-0 in the first quarter, Cormier opened the scoring for the Cavaliers. Following another Duke goal, Dickson was able to weave his way through the defense and score with less than a minute remaining in the period.
Virginia was unable to roll that momentum over into the second quarter, however, as the Blue Devils embarked on a 4-0 scoring run to open the period. With the game looking like it could get out of hand as the rain picked up, Cormier was able to keep the Cavaliers in the game. He scored three more goals in the last eight minutes of the second quarter, while Dickson added another of his own. Virginia went into halftime only facing a two-goal deficit with the score standing at 8-6.
Another bright spot for the Cavaliers was the strong play of graduate student faceoff specialist Petey LaSalla. LaSalla went 20-34 at the faceoff X and was a large reason why Virginia was able to stay within striking distance of the Blue Devils.
The third quarter was marked by scoring runs from both teams. They traded the first three goals of the period, with Cormier and Dickson each scoring, before Duke scored three in a row to stretch their lead to 12-8. The Cavaliers never gave up, as a penalty on Duke helped them go on a three-goal scoring run of their own to cut the deficit back to one. However, the Blue Devils closed the quarter on yet another three-goal stretch that would ultimately prove to be the dagger in Virginia’s chances of a comeback.
The Cavaliers scored three in the fourth quarter, but it was ultimately not enough to overcome their four-goal deficit. Duke junior attacker Brennan O’Neill was simply too much for Virginia’s defense to control, as the star finished with six total points. However, Head Coach Lars Tiffany appreciated his team’s willingness to stay in the game.
“It’s just unfortunate — it was one of those days we were always down,” Tiffany said. “You know, right out of the gate we were down two, three goals. But I love that this team was determined to not let this one slip away.”
Virginia was uncharacteristically outshot 46-43 in the game, as typically the Cavaliers’ famous 10-man rotation forces turnovers before teams can get into their offense. However, Duke and Virginia finished with 18 turnovers each, so the team’s style of play was partially negated.
Although Virginia saw impressive performances on offense from LaSalla and Cormier, as well as sophomore goalie Matthew Nunes’ 14 saves, it could not sustain momentum throughout the game. Untimely turnovers and harsh conditions made the idea of a comeback difficult for the Cavaliers. Although it could be perceived as an outlier performance due to the weather, Virginia will still need to reduce its miscues offensively should it want to compete for a national title come May.
Virginia will get another chance to break their streak to Duke in a few weeks, but it will first travel to No. 12 North Carolina. That game is scheduled for Saturday at 6 p.m. and will be televised on the ACC Network.