The only things that figured to prevent top-ranked, undefeated Virginia from winning yesterday's Atlantic Coast Conference men's lacrosse tournament title game were rust and an extraordinary effort by the Maryland Terrapins.
The No. 1 Cavaliers, playing only their second game in 22 days, were not overly sharp. And the third-ranked Terps looked much better than the team Virginia destroyed by 10 goals on April 1 in College Park. But it didn't matter.
Before an announced crowd of 5,739 at M&T Bank Stadium, five different Virginia players scored two goals, Maryland's Joe Walters and Xander Ritz were both shut out completely for the first time, and the Cavaliers took their fifth ACC title with a wire-to-wire 11-5 victory.
Virginia (13-0) won its fifth ACC tournament - albeit under unusual circumstances. With Duke having canceled the remainder of its season April 5, the event was reduced to a three-team affair, and the top-seeded Cavaliers received a bye in Friday's semifinal round.
After dispatching the Terps for a second time, the only unbeaten team in Division I will not play again until the weekend of May 13-14, when the NCAA tournament begins, with Virginia as the likely No. 1 seed. Maryland (9-4) will try to secure a top-four seed by beating No. 11 Pennsylvania in its regular-season finale Saturday.
"I was very concerned about our team, after really not having played for a couple weeks, against a very good Maryland team," Virginia coach Dom Starsia said.
"I thought our performance early in the game reflected our inactivity. But we worked hard throughout the game. That's what's required when there's not as much magic happening. You've just got to grind it out."
The Cavaliers can beat you with flash or take you out the blue-collar way.
Yesterday, they leaned on their defense. Junior goalie Kip Turner (Severn)made 12 saves, including several at point-blank range that demoralized Maryland. Senior defenseman Michael Culver, voted the tournament's most valuable player, set the tone by flustering Walters, the senior attackman and two-time ACC Player of the Year, who also encountered well-timed double teams.
Walters shot 0-for-10 and finished without a point for the first time in nearly three years. Ritz, the senior midfielder, had the same kind of day working against junior defenseman Ricky Smith. Senior midfielders Brendan Healy and Bill McGlone were the bright spots for the Terps with two goals and one assist each.
On the day, Maryland shot 5-for-41 and missed the cage 24 times.
Maryland junior goalie Harry Alford was solid with 11 saves. But he couldn't contain the stable of Virginia shooters. Attackmen Matt Ward, Ben Rubeor and Danny Glading each had two goals, as did midfielders Matt Poskay and Kyle Dixon.
The Cavs were not overwhelming, but always in control, as they jumped out to an early 4-1 lead and a 6-3 halftime advantage. But a three-goal run late in the third quarter made it 9-4 going into the last period.
Maryland, which never could sustain momentum by winning faceoffs, went scoreless for the game's final 14:09.
"I think we're a lot better team than we were on April 1," Maryland coach Dave Cottle said. "If that [first game] was a heavyweight fight, we got knocked out in the first quarter. This one I thought was a decision."
Maryland 1 2 1 1 - 5
Virginia 3 3 3 2 - 11
Goals: MD-McGlone 2, Healy 2, Phipps; VA-Rubeor 2, Dixon 2, Glading 2, Ward 2, Poskay 2, Giannone. Assists: MD-Healy, McGlone; VA-Rubeor 2, Thompson 3, Dixon, Glading, Ward. Saves: MD-Alford 11; VA-Turner 12.