Tar Heels Topple Wahoos

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Steele Stanwick took over the top spot on UVa’s all-time scoring list.

Despite a historic night for the Virginia men’s lacrosse program, the Cavaliers could not shake the same demons that haunted them a week ago and fell to North Carolina 11-9 in the ACC Tournament Semifinals in Charlottesville.

With 6:06 remaining in the third quarter, All-American attack man Steele Stanwick picked up a Colin Briggs rebound and scored to the tie game at 6 apiece. The goal marked Stanwick’s 250th career point, making him Virginia’s all-time leading scorer. The senior finished the game with 2 goals and 5 assists.

“He’s a very special young man,” Virginia coach Dom Starsia said. “If he happens to be the all-time leading scorer at the University of Virginia, that’s only a small part of who he is, and why he is such a neat kid, and why he is such a joy to get to know. He is one of the special players and special young men I have ever been around. He stirs the drink for us and we take the lead for him. We’re very fortunate to have him as the leader of this team.”

Stanwick, however, was far more concerned with the game’s result than his individual accolades.

“I would rather have gone 0-0 if we got the W,” Stanwick said. “I’m more focused on the team. It would have been a little sweeter if we had won.”

Rob Emery scored 2 goals for Virginia in its loss to UNC.

In addition to Stanwick’s big night, Briggs netted 2 goals and Rob Emery bounced back from a tough game a week ago to score 2 goals of his own. Matt White turned in 1 goal and 1 assist, while Chris Bocklet added 1 goal of his own. The Cavaliers outshot North Carolina 38-29 in the loss.

But Virginia was once again haunted by turnovers, committing 16 on the night.

A poor second half also proved costly for the Cavaliers. Leading 8-7 in the fourth quarter, the Tar Heels reeled off three straight goals to build an 11-7 lead and put the game out of the reach. The Heels moved the ball efficiently to create open looks, which dissected the UVa defense. North Carolina displayed its versatility on offense with three players scoring at least 2 goals, led by Marcus Holman with 3. UNC took better care of the ball than it did in the first meeting of the season, only turning it over 12 times. Friday’s contest marked the second week in a row that Virginia let the game get away in the second half.

“We’re playing some really good ACC teams,” Briggs said. “I think the bottom line is that we’re making too many mistakes. I think it’s more of a mental thing than anything else.”

Briggs started the game off on the right foot for the Cavaliers with a goal in the first 32 seconds. The first half featured four ties and three lead changes, and the score was knotted 4-4 at the break. The game was played at a slower pace, and featured longer possessions than the first meeting back on April 7, a game in which the Cavaliers came away victorious, 15-10.

The contest featured a matchup of two of the top faceoff men in the country in North Carolina’s R.G Keenan, and Virginia’s Ryan Benincasa. The two locked horns on 20 of the 21 faceoffs of the game, with Benincasa and Keenan each winning 10.

“I thought we battled at the faceoff throughout the night,” Starsia said. “Ryan had some success against [Keenan] in the past so we decided to go with him.”

The loss marks Virginia’s first loss to North Carolina since April 10, 2004. Virginia has now lost three home games in a season for the first time since 1968.

Still, UVa struggled at the end of last season before ultimately catching fire in the NCAA Tournament to walk away with the National Championship. The Cavaliers know that championships are won in the month of May, and are determined to put this loss behind them.

“I don’t want these guys to dismiss the whole journey part of this thing, but we’re coming up on the part of the season that people remember,” Starsia said. “We’ve had a good regular season. We just have to need to get back on our game heading into the playoffs.”

Added Stanwick: “We just haven’t put our best foot forward the last two games. There is no need to panic. We can still accomplish everything that we want to accomplish.”

Virginia concludes its regular season next Friday night against Penn in Denver for the Mile High Classic.

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