- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 13, 2012

CHARLOTTESVILLE — The clinching play of so many postseason lacrosse games is a last-second goal, a stunning save or even a faceoff to lock up possession to burn off the clock.

Virginia defensive midfielder Chris LaPierre tried something different Sunday, absorbing a body blow on a shot from Princeton’s Forest Sonnenfeldt with 10 seconds to go to ensure the fifth-seeded Cavaliers departed Klockner Stadium with a 6-5 victory in an NCAA tournament first round game.

“I definitely felt it,” LaPierre said. “Ten seconds later, you’re with your teammates celebrating and swarming the goalie and you quickly forget the pain. … Playoff game, last home game, fourth quarter, 15 seconds left, you do what you have to do to win.”

For LaPierre, it meant a shot in the gut from a 6-foot-6, 250-pounder roaming the fringes of the midfield. For Virginia, it was concocting a way to turn a half-dozen goals into a postseason victory for the first time in program history.

That is not Virginia’s way, not in 20 seasons under coach Dom Starsia. The Cavaliers run. They score. They impose pressure. The formula won them three national titles between 1999 and 2006. A modified version of it — more restrained, yet still plenty opportunistic — led Virginia to another championship last year.

Virginia (12-3) would like it to come easier. It hasn’t over the last month, and it certainly didn’t against the Tigers (11-5).

The Cavaliers scored in transition near the end of the first quarter. Steele Stanwick deposited a 45-foot pass LaPierre floated across midfield as the second quarter wound to an end. There were four other goals, two of which Colin Briggs collected unassisted off a dodge.

“We were aggressive and creating good opportunities,” said Starsia, whose team will face fourth-seeded Notre Dame or Yale on Sunday in Chester, Pa. “It was sort of indicative of what’s been an issue for us for weeks and months, perhaps. The ball just doesn’t seem to jump in for us.”

Princeton goalie Tyler Fiorito (12 saves) played a part, stymieing the Cavaliers frequently early on and as needed later in the game.

It was not stunning on several fronts. Fiorito is the Ivy League’s player of the year and a consistent standout. He’s also the ninth goalie to stop at least 10 shots against Virginia this season.

Then again, this is Virginia, where goals are usually bountiful, or at least more plentiful than they were Sunday.

“I’m definitely surprised,” attackman Chris Bocklet said. “We knew they were a good defensive team and we knew Fiorito was a great goalie. I just felt we left a lot of shots out there, especially me and especially late in the game. Those are the shots you want to bury and get up three. Coming into the next game, we have to bury these shots if we want to help out our defense a little bit.”

The defense nearly did enough on its own to secure a place in the quarterfinals. Goalie Rob Fortunato made eight saves. If Fiorito wasn’t the best player on the field, it was Virginia defenseman Matt Lovejoy, who forced four turnovers and added his first career assist.

Then there was the energetic LaPierre, the guy known as Shocker who took to a jolt of his own when Virginia needed it most.

“I heard the thud,” Lovejoy said. “I was like ‘It didn’t hit me. I’m glad it hit somebody.’ Makes me kind of glad it didn’t hit me.”

Ultimately, someone took the hit, and Virginia survived. It won despite scoring only six goals for the first time since a 1999 regular season game against, coincidentally enough, Princeton.

As the Cavaliers venture deeper into May, it is their offense that must coalesce. Starsia called the struggles “inexplicable.” It was an apt description and one offered candidly and without remorse. Nor should there be any apologies, not at this time of the year, not after doing what was necessary to win.

“If we can elevate ourselves a little bit more consistently, we have a chance in this thing,” Starsia said. “And that’s all you can ask for.”

Maryland 10, Lehigh 9

Joe Cummings scored with six seconds remaining as unseeded Maryland rallied past seventh-seeded Lehigh in Bethlehem, Pa., to advance to the NCAA tournament quarterfinals.

The Terrapins (10-5) will face second-seeded Johns Hopkins (12-3) on Saturday in Annapolis.

Drew Snider scored three goals for Maryland, which built a 6-1 lead in the first half but needed to score the final three goals to reach the quarterfinals for the fifth consecutive season.



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