Terps rule ACC, halt Virginia rally to win final, 12-11

Loss means NCAA champ can't play in tournament

College Lacrosse

April 26, 2004|By Jeff Zrebiec | Jeff Zrebiec,SUN STAFF

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. - As much as the Maryland men's lacrosse team talked about payback after its nine-goal win over Virginia in early April, the Terps' golden opportunity to avenge last year's final four loss to the Cavaliers came yesterday.

And in the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament final, the Terrapins salvaged it, while delivering the knockout blow on the reigning national champions' season.

With tournament Most Valuable Player Joe Walters pumping in a career-high six goals, the third-ranked Terps survived a furious Virginia rally to win their second ACC tournament, besting the 14th-ranked Cavaliers, 12-11, before 1,347 at sunny Fetzer Field.

"That wasn't really important to us," said Walters on ending the Cavaliers' postseason hopes. "They are a great team, but this ACC tournament has been a goal of ours all season, and we played with a lot of heart to win."

The third-seeded Cavaliers had cut a five-goal, fourth-quarter deficit to one with 40 seconds left. But Cavaliers attackman Joe Yevoli's pass sailed by a cutting Foster Gilbert with seconds left as Maryland (10-2), the tournament's top seed, celebrated an undefeated league season and its first ACC tournament title since 1998.

As a result, Virginia, which falls to 5-7 with just a game with Penn State remaining, cannot reach the required .500 mark to be NCAA tournament eligible and will miss the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1994.

The Cavaliers also will become the second team since Cornell in 1971-72 to win the national championship and not make the playoffs the next year.

"It's been a long season, a long three months," said Cavaliers coach Dom Starsia. "We've had to grow up together and it's hasn't always been the easiest ride, but we've been making progress. I'm sorry it ended so abruptly. I wish we'd have a chance to continue on."

Several of the Cavaliers were in tears after the game, including All-American senior goalie Tillman Johnson, the hero in last year's national championship run.

"This is the game we needed to stay in it," said Johnson, who, after surrendering seven first-quarter goals, settled in to make 12 saves. "It hurts. We have one game left and that's it."

The Terps led 7-5 after one period, but it was in the third quarter when the Terps took control. Leading 8-6 at halftime, Maryland outscored the Cavaliers 4-1 in the third to take the 12-7 lead. Walters factored in every way possible.

He stepped up in transition and fired a high shot that beat Johnson. Then, after assisting sophomore midfielder Bill McGlone, Walters picked up a loose ball that trickled from Johnson's stick and shoveled into the open net for an 11-7 lead with 6:11 remaining.

He then scored his sixth goal less than a minute later, taking a pass from J.R. Bordley (two goals, one assist) and beating Johnson from 15 yards out.

"It was 50-50 today," said Walters, who fired 16 shots at Johnson's cage. "I missed a bunch, but I was fortunate to be in the right place at the right time."

Playing for their postseason lives, the Cavaliers fought back as Matt Ward, Matt Poskay and Hunter Kass beat Terps goalie Tim McGinnis (12 saves) to cut the Terps' lead to 12-10 with 3:33 left.

"We knew we were going to have to play 60 minutes," said Terps coach Dave Cottle.

Yevoli scored his third goal with 40 seconds left, and Jack deVilliers won the ensuing faceoff. But driving on Terps defender David Wagner outside McGinnis' crease, Yevoli couldn't connect with Gilbert as the ball rolled toward midfield and time expired.

"It took four years, but it's just as sweet - I guess even sweeter," said Terps senior defenseman Chris Passavia, one of six Maryland players on the all-tournament team. "Hopefully, we can follow it up with something a little more special in May."

Virginia 5 1 1 4 - 11

Maryland 7 1 4 0 - 12

Goals: V-Yevoli 3, Ward 2, Dixon, Christmas, Poskay, Kenney, Kass, D. Thompson; M-Walters 6, Bordley 2, Ritz 2, McGlone, I. Healy. Assists: V-Dixon 2, Ward, Christmas, Gilbert, Kass, Smith; M-Walters, Bordley, B. Healy, Virk, Passavia. Saves: V-Johnson 12; M-McGinnis 12.

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