CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. -- Hold off on the changing of the guard in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Virginia, the hottest team in the nation in late March and early April, finished that stretch with a 10-goal rout of North Carolina April 9. The rematch came in the title game of the conference tournament yesterday, and the Cavaliers discovered that, no matter what happens in the regular season, the Tar Heels still own the postseason.
North Carolina's 15-7 rout of Virginia before 3,078 at Klockner Stadium earned the Tar Heels their sixth tournament title in six tries and their seventh straight in the ACC overall.
It's the longest such streak in the ACC since Maryland dominated from 1955 to 1961.
North Carolina returned only a handful of midfielders and defenseman Chuck Breschi from the lineup that lost by one goal to Syracuse in last year's NCAA championship game. But the No. 5 Tar Heels took a huge step toward securing one of the four first-round byes in the NCAA tournament.
The Tar Heels (9-4) downplayed their postseason successes of the past, but Virginia coach Dom Starsia played the historian. Besides its dominance of the ACC tournament, North Carolina has been to the past five Final Fours. Virginia (9-3) has one NCAA tournament victory in that time, and yesterday was only its second appearance in the ACC final.
"North Carolina looked like a team that knows how to play in big games," Starsia said. "They're a quality lacrosse team that's been around the block. Maybe we haven't had enough games like this."
After he limited Maryland and Virginia to a total of 14 goals in the tournament, North Carolina goalie Rocco D'Andraia was chosen Most Valuable Player. D'Andraia is a transfer from Rutgers, and the past he called on wasn't the Tar Heels' ACC legacy, but the 16-6 embarrassment the No. 4 Cavaliers laid on them two weeks ago.
"We weren't thinking about how many they had won or how many we had won," D'Andraia said. "We wanted revenge for getting killed last time."
D'Andraia was bombarded by Virginia's transition game in Chapel Hill. This time, North Carolina had an 18-7 advantage in faceoffs, its midfielders retreated better and the Tar Heels ran when they could and were patient when they couldn't.
The first midfield of Ryan Wade, Jason Wade and Jon Speers didn't score in Friday's 8-7 victory over Maryland, but all three scored in the first nine minutes yesterday, when North Carolina jumped to a 3-1 lead. Both Wade brothers, out of Severn School, had three goals.
Michael Watson got Virginia a 3-3 tie with 3:05 left in the first quarter, but the Cavaliers were limited to a single goal over the next 27 minutes. North Carolina clung to a 5-4 lead at the half, and after Virginia wasted an extra-man opportunity to start the second half, the Tar Heels broke it open with a 5-0 run.
D'Andraia, Breschi and the Wades were joined on the all-tournament team by teammate Gregg Langhoff. Watson, David Jones and defenseman Craig Ronald represented Virginia, and Duke's Scott Harrison and Maryland's Kip Fulks also made the team. Breschi, Langhoff and Ronald went to Loyola High, Watson is out of St. Paul's and Jones went to St. Mary's.
North Carolina 3 2 5 5 -- 15
Virginia .. .. 3 1 1 2 -- 7