Reality set in a bit for the Virginia lacrosse team. It was a week into a monthlong stretch that annually created its share of consternation.
A showdown with Johns Hopkins was already lost in overtime. Three conference games and the ACC tournament were fast approaching. And Saturday's visit to new-look Maryland would require a doggedness that doesn't always accompany the panache the No. 2 Cavaliers usually possess.
It would require, as much as coach Dom Starsia was reluctant to acknowledge, Virginia to grind it out.
"I didn't like that expression," Starsia said, a sentiment he shared with the Cavaliers during their pregame meal.
It isn't for Virginia's inability to do so. The Cavaliers (9-1, 1-0 ACC) slogged along deep into the third quarter Saturday, then unleashed a seven-goal torrent in a little more than 15 minutes to scoot past the Terrapins 12-8.
Single-digit outings in victories over Cornell and Drexel and a rally from an early five-goal hole at Ohio State already demonstrated the Cavaliers are just fine when they can't dictate a frenetic tempo from start to finish. Surviving a 7-5 deficit at Maryland didn't change much in that regard.
But it came after the Cavaliers' first loss of the season and first setback in more than 11 months and at a time Starsia returned to one of his common themes: savoring the entirety of the journey.
"It's definitely easier said than done, but we talk about it as a program all the time just to enjoy this whole ride," said attackman Steele Stanwick, who matched a career-high with eight points. "It's a special experience playing here. Sometimes, you get caught up in the moment. I think we remind ourselves to enjoy this, and when you're playing like we were in the fourth quarter, it's definitely easier to enjoy it."
Some rugged play helped fuel the Virginia-like spurt. The Cavaliers went 8 for 12 on faceoffs and held a 19-8 edge on ground balls in the second half. As potent as Stanwick and attackman Chris Bocklet were, Virginia avoided a losing streak largely because it wore out Maryland in the middle of the field.
"People talk about these as work days," Starsia said. "To me, they should be more special than that. But clearly, this was a game where we had to bend our back and pick the ball up off the ground."
Starsia isn't the sort to turn a disappointing week or two into crisis, and the Cavaliers' postseason resume is already solid. A loss wouldn't have created unyielding trepidation in Charlottesville.
Still, nothing allows Virginia to appreciate its lot in life quite like the solid second half it turned in Saturday.
"It's fun when we're playing well, to tell you the truth," Bocklet said. "Now we can enjoy the week a little bit, but we have to get right back to practice because we have a big game coming up."
Whether Starsia likes it or not, the grind continues Saturday at North Carolina.
Elsewhere in the area Saturday:
c No. 20 Georgetown upended Lafayette 8-5 behind four extra-man goals. The Hoyas (5-3) have converted half of their 32 extra-man opportunities this season after a 29.8 percent mark a year ago. The last time Georgetown finished above 40 percent on extra-man opportunities was 2008.
c Towson erased a six-goal deficit in the final 12 minutes of regulation, then scored in double overtime to stun Hofstra 10-9. The Tigers (6-3, 2-0 CAA), under first-year coach Shawn Nadelen, have doubled their win total from last season and enter April with a winning record for the first time since 2007.
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Patrick Stevens has covered Maryland and other Mid-Atlantic college sports for more than a decade. You can reach him at email@example.com.
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