Bray Malphrus holds up the National Championship trophy above, while coach Dom Starsia celebrates his fourth title at UVa below.
BALTIMORE – There are moments in every game where one bounce, one shot, or one turnover can make all the difference in the world. Monday, in the NCAA Men’s Lacrosse Championship at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore, Virginia faced two of those moments.
Both times, the Cavaliers had just watched Maryland score two goals in less than two minutes. Both times, the 35,661 people assembled at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore, most of them Terrapin fans, were cheering loudly. Both times, Virginia hadn’t scored in more than 15 minutes.
And both times, the Cavaliers responded in a big way. It all resulted in a 9-7 victory and the program’s fifth National Championship.
In the second quarter, junior Colin Briggs scored two of his five goals for the game and sophomore Nick O’Reilly added a third to put Virginia up 5-3 to end the half. In the fourth quarter after the Terps had tied the game at 6-6, sophomore Matt White scored two goals to give Virginia what turned out to be an insurmountable lead.
“I think the game today sort of epitomized the kind of season that we’ve had,” Virginia coach Dom Starsia said. “We started out well, we got the goals in the second quarter when we got ahead a little bit. I certainly expected Maryland to come back and make a run at us. To tie it up, with the crowd and the momentum shift a little bit, and for us to figure out a way to make the plays we needed to in order to win the game, get up off the canvas again and win the game in the fourth quarter certainly means a great deal.”
Briggs, the hero of the second quarter and offensive sparkplug overall, was named Most Outstanding Player after his five goal performance, some much needed redemption after the junior was suspended for Saturday’s semifinal game for an unspecified violation of team rules. In fact, one could argue that perhaps the extra rest was more of a benefit than anything else – with temperatures on the field reaching a stifling 110 degrees, Briggs appeared to be a step quicker than everyone.
“You look at the guy who scored five goals today, Colin Briggs, he was the only guy who did not play on Saturday and he looked a little bit faster than everybody else,” Maryland coach John Tillman said. “We knew fatigue would kick in on both sides but one guy seemed to be a little faster than the others.”
For Briggs, the chance to make up for his suspension was one he didn’t want to take for granted.
“I was definitely disappointed in myself,” Briggs said. “But I just thought to myself that I would come back and I was able to get some opportunities.”
Colin Briggs scored five goals and took home the Most Outstanding Player honors.
The gamed started out slow – historically so. The first quarter was the lowest scoring of any Division I Lacrosse Championship Game in history, with only one goal scored by Maryland’s star senior attackman Grant Catalino right as the Cavaliers switched from what has been their typical zone defense this postseason to a man-to-man scheme. The quarter did showcase each goalie, though. Maryland’s freshman Niko Amato stopped five shots and Virginia’s Adam Ghitelman stopped two.
The Cavaliers struck first in the second quarter, with Briggs scoring 3 minutes into the period on a high shot to the top right corner. White added his first goal after a pass from O’Reilly had him shooting on a nearly empty net and UVa led 2-1. The Terps then started their own run, with an extra-man goal by sophomore Owen Bye and an even man goal by sophomore John Haus. This prompted the first of the Cavaliers’ two key runs that resulted in the 5-3 halftime lead.
The third quarter was almost as uneventful as the first, with the two teams trading a single goal each and ending the period at 6-4.
In the fourth quarter, Maryland put together its comeback surge when senior Brian Farrell and senior Ryan Young found the back of the net within two minutes of each other to tie the game at 6-6. That’s when White stepped up for Virginia, scoring two goals after long Cavalier possessions that had the dual benefit of taking time off the clock and giving the Hoos the lead once again. In the end, Maryland simply didn’t have enough time to get the shots it needed, something the Terps attributed to Virginia’s defensive style.
“You can’t beat a zone with one pass or one dodge,” Maryland senior attackman Grant Catalino said. “I think towards the end of the game when we were down a few, we had to press the situation a little more than we did at the beginning. It’s hard to come back on a zone that’s played well so much during the game.”
Briggs and Maryland junior Jake Bernhardt each had goals in what amounted to garbage time to reach the final score of 9-7.
The championship comes at the end of what could be charitably described as a trying season for the Cavaliers. The suspension of Rhamel Bratton and the dismissal of Shamel Bratton forced reorganization on offense. The injury to key defenseman Matt Lovejoy forced a shift to a zone defense. For Starsia, the turmoil made the end result just that much sweeter.
“Had we not won this game, I might have been as proud of this group as I had about any team that I had been around in some period of time,” Starsia said. “But particularly proud right now of everything these guys have gone through and that we’ve been able to ultimately accomplish. It’s a very gratifying moment.”
The players said that if you had asked them five weeks ago, they wouldn’t have believed they could have gotten this far.
“I don’t know,” junior Steele Stanwick said. “Probably not to be honest. I always had faith in this team, but I don’t know if I thought this would have been the end result. It really shows what this team is all about and everyone bought into the whole team philosophy.”
- Sophomore attackman Nick O’Reilly, junior midfielder Colin Briggs, junior attackman Steele Stanwick, senior defender Bray Malphrus and senior goalkeeper Adam Ghitelman were all named to the All-Tournament team following Monday’s game.
- Attendance at the game was 35,661, the lowest total since the NCAA Championship started being held in NFL stadiums. The heat – official temperature was 96 degrees at the start – may have had a lot to do with it.
- Virginia’s Chris Bocklet had his 35-game goal scoring streak snapped. It was the longest active streak in the nation going in to Monday’s game.