- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 8, 2007

CHARLOTTESVILLE — As usual, the lights didn’t go out at Klockner Stadium without a victory for the Virginia lacrosse team.

Garrett Billings scored with 1:38 left in overtime as the No. 2 Cavaliers edged No. 11 North Carolina 10-9 and remained undefeated all-time in 20 night games at Klockner.

Yet Virginia (10-1, 2-0 ACC) was sloppier than usual in the victory, a by-product perhaps of both a tight game Tuesday against Binghamton and a scrappy effort from the improving Tar Heels.

“I was really hoping to get this one,” Virginia coach Dom Starsia said. “We really couldn’t do much in practice the last few days and we really couldn’t lean on these guys at all. Our starters played 60 minutes on Tuesday in 80 degrees. … I thought there was a chance this was going to happen.”

Bart Wagner equaled his career-high with four goals and goalie Grant Zimmerman matched his career-best with 15 saves for the Tar Heels (7-4, 0-3), who nearly followed up last week’s upset of Johns Hopkins with another significant victory.

The game-winner was set up after Tar Heels defenseman Brian Burke was called for pushing with 2:03 left. The Cavaliers poked at the Tar Heels before Jack Riley took the ball on the left wing. He zipped it to Billings, who deposited a shot from 6 yards out to clinch the victory.

“I saw there was one defenseman left to cover me, and Jack and I knew the shot was going to go to Jack or me,” Billings said. “As soon as I saw the defenseman commit to Jack, I knew I had a shot.”

It was a rough finish for North Carolina, which lurks on the outskirts of NCAA tournament discussion. The Tar Heels looked every bit like a postseason team against the Cavaliers rather than a group that missed the playoffs the last two years, in part because defenseman Tim Kaiser helped contain shifty Virginia star Ben Rubeor to a goal and two assists.

The Tar Heels led for much of the fourth quarter and had possession with just more than three minutes left.

But the Cavaliers forced a turnover, prodded the North Carolina defense and then tied it when midfielder Drew Thompson hit an 8-yarder with 2:06 left.

The Tar Heels quickly turned it over after winning the ensuing faceoff, and got off only one shot in overtime. Still, they remained plucky at a venue where no visiting team has won since 2004.

“We’re proud of our team today,” North Carolina coach John Haus said. “We thought we gave a really good effort, but unfortunately we lost. From the start of the 2007 season to now, we’ve made progress.”

While both teams got up and down early, they also combined for 45 turnovers that contributed to a choppy game.

It is in that environment the athletic Cavaliers can usually thrive. Virginia scored in unsettled situations early but also gift-wrapped some chances for the Tar Heels as well.

Zimmerman’s strong third quarter complemented North Carolina’s four-goal spurt to erase a 7-4 halftime deficit. But despite the difficulties, Virginia again did something so few others have managed to do with consistency this season — pull out a tight game.

“This team has played hard in every game,” Starsia said. “We’re not always the prettiest picture. We don’t bang the ball around like we did a year ago — yet. But it’s been a really good group to be with and they always give us their all on game day. We easily could have lost that game.”

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