Hofstra rallies late, upsets Virginia in OT

Bad stretch costly as Cavs fall, 15-14, blowing 14-9 lead

May 14, 2001|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,SUN STAFF

WEST POINT, N.Y. - Both Virginia lacrosse teams made appearances against Hofstra in the first round of the men's NCAA Division I tournament at Michie Stadium yesterday.

The good Cavaliers - the gang with victories over Maryland, Johns Hopkins and Towson - played superbly over the middle of the game. Looking not that far removed from the team that got coach Dom Starsia his lone NCAA title two years ago, eighth-seeded Virginia was in command for nearly 50 minutes and established a five-goal lead.

The bad Cavaliers - the injury-riddled group that last posted a significant win in March - fell behind by three goals early and resurfaced late. Hofstra scored the last six goals and prevailed, 15-14, in overtime, as junior attackman Scott Kessler forced the extra session and ended it.

"I thought we played very well, but then we fell asleep at the switch at both ends," said Starsia, whose Cavaliers needed to beat two teams from the Great Western League just to be eligible for their ninth straight NCAA appearance. "It was sort of a reflection of how our season went. It was a roller-coaster ride. The first 54 minutes were as well as we played this season."

The Cavaliers' attack struggled this spring; their 10.2 goals per game was their lowest scoring average since 1969. Their offense hummed against Hofstra, however, as midfielder Hanley Holcomb's fifth goal built a 14-9 bulge with 8:24 remaining. The lead looked larger because faceoff specialist David Jenkins was dominant, but when eighth-seeded Virginia (7-7) tried to take the air out of the ball, its patience only served to deflate its cushion.

Unseeded Hofstra (9-6) stepped up its defensive pressure and began to nail nearly every shot against Tillman Johnson, the freshman from St. Mary's who became the first goalie named Atlantic Coast Conference Rookie of the Year. The Pride was still down by three heading into the final five minutes, but it kept forcing turnovers, and a blown Cavaliers clear allowed Kessler to tie it with 1:21 left.

Holcomb had a good look and Conor Gill, the junior leader from St. Paul's, took a solid swipe at the rebound in the closing seconds, but Hofstra goalie Jack Alaimo snuffed both attempts. On Hofstra's second possession in overtime, Kessler took the ball behind the goal, which screened defenseman Brett Hughes, like Johnson a freshman. Kessler rolled right and beat Johnson for one of the biggest goals in Hofstra history.

"The defenseman [Hughes] never came out to play me," said Kessler, whose five goals gave him 47 for the season. "I took a step toward the crease area and just went over the top."

The surging Pride will be home in Saturday's quarterfinals, against top-seeded Syracuse.

"There was a lot of hollering and bickering, but we stopped that and relaxed," stellar midfielder Doug Shanahan said of his team's fourth-quarter turnaround. "Our whole season has been based on adversity. We proved we deserved to be here."

Hofstra 3 3 1 7 1 - 15

Virginia 4 4 3 3 0 - 14

Goals: H-Kessler 5, Shanahan 3, Dooley 3, McTigue 2, Clash, Hananel; V-Holcomb 5, Rotelli 3, Mullen 2, Jenkins, Gil, Shannon, Kenney. Assists: H-Clash 2, McTigue, Dooley, Kessler, Yeagle; V-Gill 3, Glading 2, Ja.Mullen, Ju.Mullen, Rotelli. Saves: H-Alaimo 12; V-Johnson 15.

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