Cavs eager to bedevil Duke's title chances

With revenge in mind, No. 5 Virginia looking to beat Duke in ACC final

April 25, 1999|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,SUN STAFF

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- Duke senior defenseman Dan Umbel shared a special memory after Friday night's 9-7 victory over North Carolina in the first round of the Atlantic Coast Conference men's tournament.

Four years ago as a high school senior, Umbel saw the Blue Devils celebrate winning the ACC championship. That marked Duke's only tournament title and its first league championship since 1954, the ACC's first year of existence.

The No. 3 Blue Devils (11-1) will attempt to carve their place in their program's history when they play No. 5 Virginia (7-3) at 3: 30 p.m. today. Duke, the top seed for the first time in the 11-year-old ACC tournament, beat the Cavaliers, 10-9, in overtime a week ago to stop a four-year, five-game losing streak to Virginia.

"Ever since I saw that and the excitement all about the ACC tournament, you want to reach that status," Umbel said. "All the other seniors want to reach that status. Beating Virginia once, that's the first time we've been part of that. Now we have a chance to do that one more time."

And the Cavaliers remember that game vividly as well.

When asked if they wanted to see the Blue Devils again before the Duke-North Carolina game even started Friday night, Virginia defenseman Ryan Curtis quickly said, "Yes, I would." Cavaliers coach Dom Starsia immediately interrupted, saying, "We would be happy to play whoever wins the next game."

But Virginia truly wants a shot at redemption as well as the opportunity to grab a first-round bye in next month's NCAA tournament with a top-four seeding. Both teams match up so evenly that many see the championship being decided by faceoffs.

Duke, the best faceoff team in the nation, struggled for the first time this season, losing 12 of 19 draws against Carolina two days ago. Virginia, however, held its own against Maryland in this area by winning 12 of 25 faceoffs in a 15-6 rout.

"You have to flip a coin," North Carolina coach Dave Klarmann said about the Duke-Virginia showdown. "I think it will come down to who gets the faceoffs. If Virginia gets them, they have a much, much better chance of winning. If Duke gets the faceoffs, I don't think Virginia has a chance."

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