No. 1 Virginia rolls into final

Early 9-2 run lifts undefeated tournament favorite Cavaliers over Orange

Virginia 17 Syracuse 10

Lacrosse final four

May 28, 2006|By KENT BAKER | KENT BAKER,SUN REPORTER

Philadelphia -- With a blazing start and uncanny shooting accuracy, unbeaten and No. 1 Virginia surged into tomorrow's NCAA Division I men's lacrosse final yesterday, subduing Syracuse, 17-10, before 49,562 sun-splashed fans at Lincoln Financial Field.

The team's 16th victory means the Cavaliers will take on unseeded Massachusetts in search of their fourth NCAA crown and first since 2003. The fifth-seeded Orange, whose nine-game winning streak ended, finished with a 10-5 record.

"We talk all the time about trying to get off to a good start," Virginia coach Dom Starsia said. "But that hadn't really been a mark of this team early. That really has evolved the second part of the season."

Virginia entered the game having outscored its opponents in the first half by 131-49. And boom, it hit the Orange with a 9-2 blitz that carried one minute into the second period. After that, Syracuse battled uphill valiantly but in vain.

"They're very impressive and they take advantage of every mistake you make," Orange coach John Desko said. "We needed to slow them down to start the game, and we didn't. You have to keep your composure and hold on to the ball against these guys."

"They are great shooters and when they get those goals early it does a lot to you mentally and physically," said Orange goalie Peter Coluccini, a redshirt freshman. "Most teams have one go-to guy, but Virginia has about four or five on the field all the time. It's disheartening for a goalie."

Syracuse, which overcame a slew of injuries and an early 1-4 record, broke through first on a goal by Brett Bucktooth 50 seconds into the game, but by the time it scored again, the Cavaliers had a 6-1 advantage on goals by six different players.

Virginia went on to add three more goals in another streak anchored by Matt Poskay and the Orange was suddenly down by seven.

"I think we played one of our best games today," All-American attackman Matt Ward said. "Especially coming out that way. We came out firing."

But the Orange still had some juice left. Syracuse dominated the second period, scoring five goals to the Cavaliers' two, and by the intermission had rallied to within 10-7.

The turning-away point came in the third quarter. A double penalty against Virginia gave Syracuse a two-man advantage. No score followed. A minute later, another Cavalier penalty gave the Orange another chance to score in a man-up situation. Again, no score.

Down the stretch, it was almost all Virginia, which is in the midst of the first unbeaten season in school history.

Part of the Cavaliers' motivation was a gut-wrenching loss in the semifinals here last year. In a thriller, Johns Hopkins ousted Virginia, 9-8, in overtime in a game delayed by a thundershower.

"We made a commitment to ourselves when we lost that game to get back here and finish the job," Poskay said.

"We decided after that that we were going to be better," Ward added. "Each practice that we had this year was about like a game for us."

Ward, the team's scoring leader, finished with four goals and freshman Garrett Billings chipped in with three as the Cavaliers slightly edged their national-best 15.8 goals per game average.

kent.baker@baltsun.com

Syracuse 2 5 1 2 - 10

Virginia 8 2 2 5 - 17

Goals: S-Bucktooth 2, Crockett 2, Nims 2, Yevoli, Hardy, Abbott, Kenney; V-Ward 4, Billings 3, Poskay 2, Glading 2, Little 2, Rubeor, Thompson, Dixon, Giannone. Assists: S-Leveille 2, Yevoli 2, Hardy, Perritt; V-Rubeor 2, Thompson 2, Culver, Dixon, Poskay, Riley. Saves: S-Coluccini 10, Myers; V-Turner 10.

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