- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 25, 2008

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Virginia felt right at home whenever overtime arrived throughout the season, squeezing out four victories in extra time to propel a final four push.

The second-seeded Cavaliers will long remember they couldn’t continue the trend once they arrived on lacrosse’s biggest stage.

Syracuse’s Mike Leveille zipped a shot through the legs of screened goalie Bud Petit with 1:43 left in double overtime at Gillette Stadium to send the third-seeded Orange to a 12-11 victory and a spot in the NCAA tournament final against Johns Hopkins.

Leveille’s fifth goal of the day — even with Virginia defenseman Ken Clausen draped on him — was a fitting conclusion to a madcap overtime featuring five saves.

Not to mention plenty of chances for the Cavaliers (14-4).

“More times than not overtime games are decided quickly,” coach Dom Starsia said. “It’s not often you come back and forth. I thought there were very good offensive opportunities for us. Every time we came down on offense, I thought we were going to get the goal to win the game. Every time they went down, I was deathly afraid they might do the same.”

His counterpart, Syracuse’s John Desko, could have felt the same way. Virginia’s Danny Glading (three goals) clanked one off the post with 52 seconds remaining in the first overtime, and the Orange’s Jovan Miller transition opportunity drilled Petit in the lower abdomen 10 seconds later.

The Cavaliers squandered an extra-man chance in the second overtime, before senior Ben Rubeor earned his best scoring chance of the day. The star senior, held to only an assist, pummeled the intersection of the crossbar and the right pipe.

“It’s tough that a win or a loss is a difference of inches,” Rubeor said. “We had some shots that just hit [goalie John Galloway], just missed or hit the pipe. It’s tough to go out that way. … You have to make sure you’re on cage, especially in overtime. There’s a lot of pressure on the goalie.”

Petit (16 saves), the fifth-year senior who was thrust into the starting lineup at midseason, would agree. He made four saves once the Orange (15-2) tied it with three minutes left in regulation.

The game-winner, while not nearly as quality a look for Leveille, was tougher for Petit to get a read on as well. Leveille scampered around about 11 yards from the cage as Clausen tried to corral him, then unleashed an attempt at a low, tight angle with several players between him and Petit.

“I saw his stick low, so I knew it was going to go somewhere near my feet,” Petit said. “There were a lot of legs in the way and Kenny was playing good defense and Leveille is just a great lacrosse player.”

He was also the linchpin to Syracuse’s comeback from a 9-4 hole in the middle of the third quarter. The Cavaliers tensed up a bit even withe cushion but still maintained a 10-6 edge after Garrett Billings scored less than a minute into the fourth quarter.

The Orange, as is their wont, had a surge in them. With the help of two goals in a 14-second stretch, Syracuse gradually closed before Leveille tied it after securing the rebound off Brendan Loftus’ attempt off the post.

“The truth is there is no way to feel safe against those guys until the game is over,” Starsia said.

It just wouldn’t end for a while.

The second-longest game in series history (behind Syracuse’s two-overtime victory in the 2002 semifinals) was a downer for a coach whose election to the national lacrosse hall of fame was announced later in the day and whose team had won nine of its last 10 one-goal games.

“Realistically, at least two or three times I was thinking ‘We’re going home right now,’ ” Starsia said. “We’ve probably had more than our fair share of these shots go in this year. Maybe these things even out over time. We certainly felt we had the chances to win the game.”



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