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The Cavaliers will misses the NCAA men's lacrosse tournament for the first time since 2004.
Sunday, April 28, 2013
CHARLOTTESVILLE — A semifinal victory over the No. 1 seed did not ensure a successful weekend for the Virginia men’s lacrosse team.
UVa coach Dom Starsia’s program was not built on silver linings.
In almost any other year, the Cavaliers would have headed home to begin NCAA tournament preparations following a 16-13 loss to North Carolina in the ACC title game.
Instead, they’ll be clearing out their lockers.
Virginia would have received an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament with a victory Sunday, but a loss dropped the Cavaliers to 7-8 for the season, with the sub-.500 record making them ineligible for NCAA consideration.
“This one hurts for obvious reasons,” said Starsia, who won’t be taking a team to the NCAA playoffs for the second time in his 21-year tenure and first time since 2004.
“I really felt like we had become a pretty good lacrosse team here by the end of the season. Personally, I wasn’t obsessed with the playoff piece of it. It was more just being able to continue to play.”
The Cavaliers jumped to a 5-3 lead in the first quarter but Carolina (12-3) gained some momentum on a Davey Emala goal with 2.3 seconds left in the period.
The Tar Heels also had a buzzer-beater at the end of the second period, when Chad Tutton scored with 4.5 seconds remaining to make it a 10-7 game at halftime.
It was an occurrence with which Virginia was more than familiar.
Opponents scored 17 goals this season in the final 30 seconds of a quarter, including 15 in the final 16 seconds.
“It’s kind of uncanny,” Starsia said. “I don’t know what the answer to that is.”
But, the whole game was a microcosm of the Cavaliers’ season.
Seven of UVa’s eight losses were by three goals or fewer, including a 10-7 loss to the Tar Heels in Charlottesville.
“We’re playing the best teams in the country; they’re all close games,” Starsia said. “Early in the year, we could have packed our bags and we never did. To be at this point on the last day and have a shot at this thing, there was a lot to be proud of.”
Carolina was ranked No. 1 in one poll and No. 3 in another, but the Tar Heels had demons of their own. The Tar Heels hadn’t won the ACC Tournament since 1996.
“I’m surprised at how long the drought has been,” said senior attackman Marcus Holman, named tournament most valuable player after a five-assist afternoon. “We didn’t talk about that or about what our record was against Duke.”
The Tar Heels had lost 16 of 17 games to Duke before beating the Blue Devils 18-17 in Friday night’s semifinal. UVa had knocked off Maryland 13-6 in the opener.
Holman’s outing gave him 207 points for his career, breaking a Carolina record that had stood since 2003.
Senior midfielder Emala had a team-high four goals for the Tar Heels but that paled in comparison to the career-ending seven-goal performance by UVa senior Matt White. Junior attackman Nick O’Reilly had one goal and seven assists.
“I like playing lacrosse,” White said. “I wanted to keep playing lacrosse.”
Virginia seldom had the ball in the first half, when Carolina won 13 of 19 faceoffs, but the Cavaliers had plenty of opportunities in the second half, when the Tar Heels were whistled for four penalties, three of them for one minute.
“A couple guys would probably like a couple of shots back,” said Starsia, whose team finished 0-for-5 on man-up opportunities. “Those kind of things make a difference.”
White and fellow all-tournament choice Harry Prevas, a defenseman, are the most prominent seniors Virginia will be losing. The Cavaliers will regain the services of injured All-American Chris LaPierre, who was redshirted.
“I can’t overplay it and I don’t mean to beat it to death,” Starsia said. “We’re all big boys and we all keep score, but this team never gave in. I hope future teams will follow the example of this group.
“You are who you are and you use whatever you got to try to move in a positive direction. But, I would prefer to still be playing and learn from that example.”
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