Virginia puts out Terps' fire

Down 6, UM closes in, but No. 1 Cavs score last 3 for ACC title, 11-7

April 24, 2000|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,SUN STAFF

COLLEGE PARK -- Top-ranked Virginia finished a weekend of living dangerously yesterday by halting Maryland's second-half comeback with a late offensive surge to beat the Terps, 11-7, and win its third Atlantic Coast Conference men's lacrosse tournament in the past four years, before 2,055 at Byrd Stadium.

Two days after coming from four goals behind to knock off upset-minded North Carolina in double overtime, Virginia ran into another feisty opponent in the No. 9 Terps.

And the Cavaliers, who nearly blew an 8-2 third-quarter advantage by allowing five unanswered scores, once again showed the poise befitting a defending national champion.

Virginia held the Terps scoreless over the game's final 14 minutes, while the Cavaliers' offense shook off a 22-minute drought -- and another great performance by Terps goalie Pat McGinnis -- to put down Maryland with three decisive goals in crunch time.

Sophomore attackman Conor Gill, arguably the country's premier playmaker, started the pivotal rally by feeding A. J. Shannon on the crease for the goal that stopped Maryland's momentum and gave Virginia a 9-7 lead with 5: 19 left in the contest.

Senior midfielder Jay Jalbert then bulled his way past defenseman Brian Kingsbury, before burning McGinnis from 5 yards away with 2: 59 left. Peter Ragosa iced the game with a fast-break goal with 1: 23 remaining.

Virginia (10-1) won its 10th consecutive game, then sighed.

"I'm pleased that we figured out a way to win in two very difficult situations," Virginia coach Dom Starsia said. "We came away from Friday night thinking we had our ears pinned back. We were reeling a little bit at the end of the third quarter today. I've got a mature group, and I think they showed their experience today.

"We do need to play better. But in this setting, against Maryland and North Carolina, I don't know that it's ever going to be perfect."

For a while, it appeared the game would be a rerun of the March 31 meeting in College Park, where the Cavaliers took an 11-6 decision by leading comfortably in wire-to-wire fashion.

The Terps (8-4), fresh off Friday night's emotional, 7-6 semifinal victory over Duke, were quite accommodating at the outset.

Maryland's offense stayed in neutral, thanks to 12 first-half turnovers, many of them unforced. That put the ball in Gill's stick way too often, as he distributed three of his game-high four assists to help Virginia take a 7-2 halftime lead.

The Terps' last goal of the first half came with 6: 09 left in the opening quarter, when attackman Andrew Combs' 10-yarder from the left wing pulled Maryland to within 3-2.

"We made a lot of mistakes in the first half, throwing the ball away and stuff like that," Combs said. "You can't do that against a team like Virginia."

When Gill -- voted the tournament's Most Valuable Player after recording two goals and seven assists in two games-- scored early in the third quarter to make it 8-2, the Terps looked dead on a soggy field.

But Maryland got a spark from McGinnis (18 saves, 10 second half), sharpened its defensive slides and rediscovered its offense, despite losing all 11 faceoffs in the second half. That's largely because the Cavaliers suddenly could not hold onto the ball. Losing attackman Ian Shure (two goals, one assist) to asthma problems for much of the second half also did not help Virginia.

After Mike LaMonica sent a rising, 10-yard shot past Virginia goalie Derek Kenney to end a scoreless streak that spanned more than 25 minutes, the Terps went on a 5-0 run, with goals also by Combs, Mike Mollot and two by Matt Urlock. His second score, in which he faked low on the crease, then shot over Kenney's shoulder, cut the score to 8-7 with 14: 05 left in the game.

"We certainly were in a greater state of emotion in the second half," Maryland coach Dick Edell. "There's no quit in these guys."

Said Gill: "We just got out of our rhythm a little bit. We didn't knock down some shots we usually do. You're going to go through those kinds of things during a game. But we broke out of it successfully in the end."

In the end, the weekend seemed a success for Maryland, which entered the tournament needing at least one victory to solidify its NCAA tournament bid hopes.

But a year after not receiving an invitation following eight straight trips, Edell was not buying that theory.

"We've got two more statements to make. We'll put the pressure on ourselves," said Edell, alluding to final, regular-season games against Yale and UMBC. "Yale is our opening playoff game."

Virginia 4 3 1 3 -- 11

Maryland2 0 4 1 -- 7

Goals: V--Jalbert 2, Shure 2, Shannan 2, Ragosa, Hard, Bruce, McKnight, Gill; M--Combs 2, Urlock 2, Mollot, LaMonica, Watkins.

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