Matt Lovejoy recorded an assist on this fastbreak scoring play to Bobby Hill.
In a renewal of one of the game’s most storied rivalries, the University of Virginia edged visiting Princeton 6-5 in the opening round of the 2012 NCAA Men’s Lacrosse Tournament.
With the Cavaliers leading 6-4 with less than two minutes to play in regulation, Tom Schreiber scored unassisted to cut the UVa lead to one goal. The Tigers took the ensuing faceoff and had a chance to even the score. In fact, Princeton had three opportunities to tie the game in the final minute, but could not convert on any of the attempts. Forest Sonnenfeldt had the final look with 10 seconds remaining, but Virginia’s Chris LaPierre blocked the attempt with his body, and the Hoos held on for the win.
In addition to the late stand, the UVa defense proved to be the difference in Sunday’s contest. Matt Lovejoy and Chris Clements led the defensive effort with four credited turnovers each. Behind the strong defense, Rob Fortunato was stellar in the goal for the Hoos, finishing the game with 8 saves. The Tigers outshot Virginia 19-8 in the second half, and 34-25 for the game. In fact, Princeton looked to be the aggressor for the majority of the contest, and Fortunato was a big factor in Virginia being able to hold on to its slim lead.
Lovejoy was credited for silencing several key Princeton possessions. UVa coach Dom Starsia says that Lovejoy acts as a coach on the field for the defense.
“He’s on a very short list for the best team defenders that I’ve ever had,” Starsia said. “During timeouts when we talk about defense, I’m almost always turning to Matt. He prepares like nobody else. He’s a kid who is maximizing the end of his career.”
Virginia made some changes to its offense in Sunday’s game. Steele Stanwick, who is viewed as the “quarterback” of the offense, spent more time on the wing instead of being behind the goal. Interestingly enough, however, when Stanwick was behind the net midway through the fourth quarter, he found Chris Bocklet open. Bocklet cashed in for Virginia’s final score of the day. Bocklet’s goal ended a 23-minute dry spell for the Cavaliers, who scored just once in the second half.
Starsia also made changes to his starting lineup by putting Matt White in place of Owen Van Arsdale at attack. White has not started a game at attack since the NCAA Tournament last year. White tallied 8 goals and 3 assists at attack during the tourney in 2011. The junior started every game at midfield this season, but Starsia felt that White would add some versatility to the offense at attack as the 2012 postseason began.
“We felt that we had to be more dangerous at every spot on the field that we could be,” Starsia said. “We could put a little more pressure on their third defenseman. Matt is a little bigger target off the ball. He is so good at working the two-man game with Steele.”
Overall Sunday, UVa benefited tremendously from goals in the last 10 seconds of quarters. Lovejoy connected with Bobby Hill on a fastbreak, and Hill scored with 9 seconds remaining in the first period. The play of the day came with 5 seconds remaining in the first half, when LaPierre found Stanwick on a near full field pass, and Stanwick put the ball in the net.
Steele Stanwick scored a goal and added an assist.
“Chris made a great, great pass,” Stanwick said. “I was going to check the defender, but I knew if I did that, I probably wouldn’t have had a shot. I banked on the defender missing, and it fell right in my stick.”
Added Starsia, “It’s not a coincidence that it’s LaPierre to Stanwick. Stanwick’s decision not to check the man’s stick, and [LaPierre] getting just enough air under the pass was slightly more than coincidental.”
Bocklet and Mark Cockerton led Virginia offensively with 2 goals apiece. Stanwick added 1 goal and 1 assist.
In a role reversal from the North Carolina game in the ACC Tournament, the Cavaliers won the game on the scoreboard, but were dominated on paper. In addition to earning more shots, the Tigers controlled the groundballs 30-27, won 9 of the 14 face-offs, and had a 24-20 advantage in clears.
“If we win ugly, then we’ll win ugly if that’s who we are,” Starsia said. “You would think that we would be a team that would be able to create and capitalize a little bit more smoothly on offense, but we have not been able to do that.”