The weekend didn’t end the way the Cavaliers hoped, but the Virginia men’s lacrosse team continues to see signs of progress as the regular season finishes.
UVA participated in the ACC Tournament and won a game in the event for the first time since 2013 this weekend. The Hoos snapped a four-game losing streak against Syracuse to win Friday’s game, 11-10. Notre Dame topped Virginia, 17-7, to win the ACC Tournament title Sunday afternoon. That combination of results left players with a little bit of a bittersweet feeling about the tourney at Klockner Stadium, but senior Mike D’Amario framed it as both progress and a learning experience.
D’Amario scored five goals in the two games and earned a spot on the All-Tournament team.
“Yeah definitely a positive step for the program this weekend,” D’Amario said. “It didn’t end the way we wanted it to, the way we know we could have had it end if we played our best ball. I think we kind of shot ourselves in the foot. But as far as taking steps forward, this weekend was really big for Virginia lacrosse. Getting back to the ACC Tournament and making the final, big win Friday night against Syracuse – we hadn’t beaten that team in a while – so there’s definitely positives to take away from it, but a great learning experience for everybody.”
D’Amario has the perspective to understand the steps the program has made this season. As a senior, he had not played in either the ACC Tournament nor the NCAA Tournament in his career. By making the ACC field and winning a game, it shed the string that dated back five years. He could play in his first NCAA Tournament as well later this month, assuming the Hoos take care of business against VMI as expected.
UVA appears to be in good position to receive an at-large bid to the 17-team field when the selections are made on Sunday, May 6, though that’s not a lock at this point. Friday’s win against Syracuse helped in that regard and wins by Albany, Maryland, and others in conference tournaments would help the cause. The Cavaliers have not made the NCAA Tournament since 2015.
They’ve put themselves in that position thanks to progress on the field. The Hoos opened the season with a win against Loyola, who already earned a spot in the NCAA Tournament field by winning the Patriot League. Virginia also picked up victories against Syracuse and Princeton along the way. The win against North Carolina on April 7 stopped an 18-game losing streak in ACC games and pushed UVA past its 2017 win total at the same time.
Still, Sunday’s result showed there are still steps that remain. The quick turnaround with scouting reports, game preparation, and recovery showed a more vulnerable team against Notre Dame than the one that took down Syracuse. Bouncing back a day or two later is a unique challenge.
“How do we deal with success?” Cavalier coach Lars Tiffany said. “Friday night was a fantastic crowd, a fantastic atmosphere, and we played up to the atmosphere. We played probably our best lacrosse of the year. How do we deal with that success? Unfortunately, we didn’t deal with it great but that’s what we’ve got to learn from.”
Virginia, of course, hopes to handle a quick turnaround against VMI for the regular season finale first. If that goes well, the Hoos would love a chance to apply lessons learned from the ACC Tournament in the NCAA Tournament.
“You have to learn what you can from this one and then put it away and not think about it anymore and look forward to the tournament,” D’Amario said. “Before we can do that, we have VMI so we have to get ready for that game. They’re going to be really excited to be playing us. We’re going to have to bring it on Tuesday and then after that, hopefully we can be fortunate to get a good position in the tournament and take positive steps forward there.”