Virginia and Syracuse share a competitive and intense rivalry on the lacrosse field, but the two men’s programs had never met in the ACC Tournament before Friday night. The semifinal showdown at Klockner Stadium followed the traditional script between the schools, though, as UVA won a one-goal game, 11-10.
The programs have now met 35 times and Cuse holds both a one game series lead, 18-17, and a one goal advantage overall, 442-441. The Orange joined the ACC in 2014.
“Tonight, was a big step here in our second year as a staff,” Virginia coach Lars Tiffany said. “Kip Turner, Sean Kirwan, Rocco Romero and myself developing the attitude that the bigger the moment and the bigger the pressure the more we thrive. It’s taken a lot of cultural Tuesdays and a lot of work to get to this point where the men truly trust each other and believe in the system. What you saw tonight was a Virginia lacrosse team that is really bonding and playing at a higher level when the pressure is on.”
The pressure was on for the Hoos because they were playing in the ACC Tournament field for the first time since 2013 and hadn’t won against Syracuse in the last four meetings. They stepped up to meet that challenge head on Friday.
The Cavaliers scored two goals in the first three minutes to erase an early 1-0 deficit and then snared control of things in the second quarter. After trailing 4-3 following the first quarter, UVA shut out Syracuse in the second quarter and took the halftime lead with a pair of goals. Wahoo goalkeeper Alex Rode made three of his 10 saves during that clean quarter.
Virginia crept ahead by two goals six times in the second half, but had to hold off Cuse answers all the way into the final minute. Freshman Matt Moore provided much of the second-half firepower, scoring three of the Hoos’ six goals after intermission. All three of those tallies gave UVA a two-goal cushion at the time. He finished with four goals to lead all scorers. Sophomore Michael Kraus, sophomore Dox Aitken, and senior Mike D’Amario chipped in two goals each, while freshman Ian Laviano had one.
Moore credited good ball movement for creating openings for the offense. UVA logged seven assists on those 11 goals with Kraus leading the way with three.
“Kraus threw me a couple and we were getting the ball around,” Moore said. “Just like subtle moves that they don’t see coming – they just think we’re passing the ball around so I would just go in and sprint as fast as I can and I think helped a little bit.”
Virginia stayed ahead on the scoreboard in large part by controlling possessions after goals at the faceoff X. Justin Schwenk and Luke Brugel combined to win 11 of 14 second half faceoffs, which kept the ball away from the Orange and prevented momentum from swinging too wildly. Schwenk won 16 of 23 faceoffs in the contest.
The sophomore transfer from Monmouth pushed his season total to 216 faceoff wins, which broke the previous program record. Jack deVilliers held the previous single-season mark with 204 in 2003.
“Oh it’s amazing. I mean Virginia lacrosse – last year I was playing at Monmouth,” Schwenk said. “I just broke the record for most faceoffs won in a season and it’s amazing. I’m very happy and proud and really happy to be here.”
Thanks in part to Schwenk’s success on faceoffs, the Hoos will play for their 18th ACC Championship on Sunday at noon against Notre Dame.