CHESTER, Pa. — Sunday carried more than a little familiarity for Virginia coach Dom Starsia.
The Cavaliers’ offense wasn’t quite as crisp as it needed to be against Notre Dame. After making some average goalies look good at several junctures this season, Virginia had the misfortunate of encountering arguably the nation’s top netminder. There were fleeting few instances when the Cavaliers could generate good looks on a whim.
And just like that, the defending national champions found themselves out of the tournament, 12-10 losers in the NCAA quarterfinals at PPL Park.
“Everything about it felt like what our season was like,” Starsia said. “We worked hard. We did a lot of good things. It just never was simple. It was never easy for us.”
Notre Dame will meet top-seeded Loyola (16-1) in the semifinals Saturday in Foxborough, Mass.
The fourth-seeded Fighting Irish (13-2) were responsible for much of Virginia’s miseries, from John Kemp’s 14 saves to Max Pfeifer’s hat trick to a wave of midfielders wearing down the fifth-seeded Cavaliers (12-4) in the fourth quarter.
The game fit seamlessly into Virginia’s season arc. The Cavaliers won eight in a row to open the season, an impressive 29-day march that included victories over traditional heavyweights Cornell and Syracuse. Yet it was an increasingly weary bunch that navigated the next two months, unable to establish a measure of consistency while splitting its last eight games.
“We always felt we were a team grinding it out waiting for that big game where we were going to put it all together, but we were just off,” said attackman Steele Stanwick, who scored two goals and added five assists in his final game at Virginia.
The warning signs were there even as Virginia finished its regular season with a two-goal defeat of struggling Penn and then barely fended off Princeton in the first round. Running into Kemp and the stingy Fighting Irish defense only amplified Virginia’s problems.
The Cavaliers took a 4-3 lead, then went scoreless for nearly 20 minutes. Even when Virginia controlled possession for the majority of the third quarter, it struggled to gain traction against Kemp.
“It really was hard to get good shots on cage,” attackman Chris Bocklet said. “It seemed like it took multiple spins just to get one good shot. That’s what it felt like. When we moved the ball well and spun it and spun it and had those good opportunities, that’s where I felt this goalie got the better of us a little bit.”
While Virginia relied heavily on its first midfield (though the second line of Pat Harbeson, Matt Kugler and Ryan Tucker saw more time than a week earlier), Notre Dame cycled through three midfields to wear down the Cavaliers and got three goals and four assists from its second midfield.
“The great thing about our team is we don’t have any more idea than you do who’s going to step up in the next game or next quarter or anything else,” Notre Dame coach Kevin Corrigan said. “It’s really been kind of find because they’re all kind of buying into what we’re doing. It seems like every game or every half, it changes who we get plays from.”
Fittingly, the Irish received goals from four players on a 4-0 run in the fourth quarter to build a 12-8 lead. Virginia managed to score twice in the final two minutes, becoming the first team all season to reach 10 goals against Notre Dame.
As was so often the case this spring, the Cavaliers just couldn’t do enough.
“It’s sort of inexplicable in some ways,” said Starsia, whose program lost in the quarterfinals for the first time since 1998. “We never could get the playing piece just the way we wanted to. I think that falls on my shoulders above all else. But I’m really proud of these guys and I couldn’t ask for much more.”
Duke 17, Colgate 6
Robert Rotanz scored a career-best five goals, leading Duke to a victory against Colgate.
Duke (15-4), seeded No. 3, advances to the semifinals to play ACC rival Maryland on Saturday in Baltimore in a rematch of last year’s semis.