The Virginia Cavaliers overcame a 19-day layoff, a shutout of a prime scorer and a Duke team that executed its game plan to near-perfection.
And in yesterday's NCAA men's lacrosse quarterfinals at Homewood Field, the Cavaliers did what defending national champions are supposed to do. They shook off their shortcomings and withstood a second-half comeback by the Blue Devils by producing a heroic play with a season hanging in the balance.
Senior attackman Drew McKnight followed up his own failed shot by circling the crease, then sending a diving, left-handed toss into the upper-left corner past goalie Matt Breslin with 2:21 left to give Virginia a 10-9 victory.
The victory, the school-record 13th straight for Virginia (13-1), sends the Cavaliers back to the final four on Saturday at the University of Maryland's Byrd Stadium, where they will face Princeton in the semifinals.
McKnight's team-high third goal of the contest was the game's most spectacular. Twenty-two seconds after the Blue Devils (11-5) tied the score at nine when Greg Patchak scooped up a loose ball with his back to the goal and flipped a shot past Virginia's Derek Kenney, McKnight answered by firing a wicked shot that deflected off Breslin's helmet.
But McKnight was there to pick up the ball behind the net, from where he circled and beat Breslin with his off-hand."The play was for me to go up top and dodge from up top. I did that and hit Breslin right in the head," McKnight said. "Luckily, it bounced back behind the cage, and the defenseman didn't see where it went.""Drew McKnight made a spectacular play," said Duke coach Mike Pressler. "I'd rather lose that way than lose with someone making a mistake on our part. We felt like this was going to be a heavyweight matchup. I told my guys all week this was going to be a one-goal game that would be decided in the fourth quarter, or maybe in overtime."
The Blue Devils nearly sent the game into overtime. With less than a minute to go, Virginia committed a holding penalty, giving Duke an extra-man opportunity. Then, Duke midfielder Chris Kakel darted in from the right wing and took a shot that bounced off the goal pipe and out of bounds.
The Cavaliers cleared successfully, called timeout with 37seconds left, then ran out the clock to preserve a hard-fought decision."I knew it was going to be a low-scoring game, and I thought this was the toughest matchup in the quarterfinals," said Virginia coach Dom Starsia. "The anxiety for me and my staff was probably as high as it's been for a game in a long time."
Duke, which fell behind 2-0, quickly showed it would stay around for the game's duration by running off four answered scores and locking down on defense. All-American Stephen Card was superb, as he put the clamps on Virginia attackman Conor Gill, keeping Gill scoreless for the first time in his two-year career.
The Blue Devils, who fell behind 6-4 at the half, played a tenacious third quarter, in which they held the ball for well over 10minutes to stifle the Virginia attack. But they could only close to within 6-5 on a goal by Hunter Henry. Then, with five seconds left in the period, McKnight scored his second goal to make it 7-5. Jason Hard opened the fourth quarter to push Virginia in front, 8-5.
But Duke answered with a 4-1 run, tying the score with 2:44 left on Patchak's goal.