DAVIDSON, N.C. -- Clint Peay's sheepish smile belied his claim of innocence.
With Peay's Virginia team leading Rutgers 2-1 in an NCAA tournament semifinal, Peay could have been called for tripping Rob Johnson from behind in the penalty area. Instead, referee Dave Harris signaled to play on, and no penalty kick was awarded despite the protests of the vocal Rutgers contingent.
The three-time defending national champion Cavaliers, with the help of some great goaltending, were able to hang on for the 2-1 triumph yesterday before an NCAA tournament record 11,848 at Davidson College's Richardson Field.
Tomorrow, Virginia (21-3-1) will try for its fifth NCAA crown in six years when it faces Indiana (23-2) in the 1:30 p.m. title match. Indiana, which has won three national titles, beat UCLA (18-5) in yesterday's other semifinal, 4-1.
In the 62nd minute, eight minutes after Virginia had taken its lead on what became freshman midfielder Billy Walsh's fifth game-winner of the season, Johnson broke free deep on the left flank. As he carried along the end line into the penalty area, Peay, who played on two state champions at Oakland Mills High, tugged at Johnson's shirt and hacked at his right calf. Johnson went flying face-first to the turf.
"There was no foul," Peay said after the game.
Johnson, who finished with a team-leading 13 goals and 33 points, disagreed.
"Coming from me, I really do think it's a penalty kick," he said. "When you get down to a competitive game like this in the final four, you don't want a game decided on penalty kicks. I think it was a poor choice on [the referee's] part."
Said Rutgers coach Bob Reasso: "I thought he was taken down, but I'm not going to elaborate at this time."
Rutgers (14-10-3), which outplayed the Cavaliers for most of the second half, had many other opportunities to tie, but Cavaliers goalkeeper Mark Peters came up with nine saves.
One of Peters' exceptional saves came after Johnson fanned on across and the ball caromed to Hamisi Amani-Dove in the right side of the box in the 56th minute.
Amani-Dove, from Columbia, drilled a hard shot that Peters just tipped over the crossbar.
"The goalie made a great play," said the Wilde Lake High graduate, who added that the loss "is definitely going to nag me for a while . . . but I'm happy. I never thought a month ago we'd be in the Final Four."
Rutgers had won six straight after an 8-9-3 regular season.
Virginia's top midfielder, Mike Fisher, received a yellow card for delay of game with 1:38 left. Since it's his third yellow of the postseason, he is suspended for the final.
In the second game, reserve freshman midfielder Caleb Porter scored the winning goal. Tim Hardy's shot glanced off the fingertips of UCLA goalkeeper Matt Reis four minutes into the game for a 1-0 lead.
A misdirected header by teammate Steve Keller resulted in Porter's decisive goal. Collecting the attempt 25 yards to Reis' left, his shot sailed inside the far post two minutes before halftime.