- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 31, 2002

The evidence keeps mounting to help build a case for Tillman Johnson as the nation's best goalie in men's college lacrosse.
With less than a minute to play against fifth-ranked Maryland yesterday, Virginia's Johnson thwarted Terrapins midfielder Mike Mollot from eight yards out to preserve an 11-10 victory for No.2 Virginia before 3,158 at Byrd Stadium.
In a play designed by coach Dave Cottle, Mollot spun off defender Brett Hughes and had a clear look at the goal. But Johnson read the play from the start, and saw the ball leave Mollot's stick. Johnson caught it cleanly stick-side high and started the clear to preserve Virginia's first ACC victory.
"I just tried to stay big and tried to read the shot and stay composed," said Johnson, who finished with 13 saves. "I saw it and caught it with my stick and tried to get it out as fast as I could."
Maryland was down 8-4 early in the second half before the Terrapins (6-2, 1-2 ACC) got their offense moving. The Terps cut the Cavaliers' lead to one three times in the half (9-8, 10-9 11-10) but never caught up.
Virginia (6-1, 1-0), led by freshmen Joe Yevoli's three goals and John Christmas' four goals and one assist), never got flustered. In their two previous victories, the Cavaliers went on 5-0 and 6-0 runs, respectively, to beat Towson and Johns Hopkins. But they could not pull away from Maryland.
"That is definitely the toughest defense we've played all year," said Yevoli, who leads the team in goals with 20. "A lot of those runs we had at the end of games helped us a lot. All those games make us mentally tough and physically tougher, and when it comes down to a close game like that, we're ready to play."
The game was very physical and tightly officiated. Virginia coach Dom Starsia picked up what he said was his first unsportsmanlike foul in 20 years of coaching, and senior attackman Conor Gill (two assists) was whistled for three penalties as many as he had all of last season.
Maryland outplayed Virginia in most categories, outshooting it 36-29, winning 15 of 23 faceoffs and picking up 18 more groundballs than the Cavaliers. But the Terps were unable to capitalize on their extra-man opportunities, coverting just three of eight. Virginia scored twice on its man-down and was three of four on its man-up opportunities.
Thanks to Johnson, the Cavaliers were able to pop out on transition on Maryland's extra-man offense. Twice he made a save, grabbed the ball and threw long outlet passes that led to the pair of man-down goals.
"Transition killed us," said Maryland senior midfielder Nate Watkins, who led the Terps with three goals. "We didn't get back in the hole a couple of times, and it killed us. We just gave them easy goals."


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