May 21, 2011

'Hoo Dat? UVA Finds Way Back to Final Four

by Chris R. Vaccaro | | Live Blog Replay | Live Blog/Chat Center

In an NCAA quarterfinal matchup pitting Tewaaraton Trophy favorites against each other, Virginia's Steele Stanwick (3g, 4a) was a stalwart, whereas Cornell's Rob Pannell struggled against the Cavaliers' zone defense. UVA advanced to the NCAA semifinals with a 13-9 victory.

© Greg Shemitz

HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. – Virginia isn't usually in the position of clawing back during the postseason. With last week's come-from-behind win over Bucknell and an early deficit against Cornell, the Cavaliers are operating differently in the last month. The end result has been the same, however.

Saturday's early hole during the first 12 minutes of the NCAA Division I men's lacrosse quarterfinal against the second-seeded Big Red (14-3) was only a minor setback before the Cavaliers (11-5) opened the flood gates.

Seventh-seeded Virginia, which trailed 4-1 with 3:57 left in the first quarter, piled in nine unanswered goals -- including seven in the second quarter -- en route to a 13-9 win over the Big Red at Hofstra's Shuart Stadium.

Virginia advanced to the NCAA semifinals next weekend in Baltimore against the winner of the No. 3 Johns Hopkins-No. 6 Denver matchup, also on Long Island Saturday afternoon.

Cornell's Steve Mock led all scorers with four goals, while Virginia's Steele Stanwick and Chris Bocklet each scored three. Cornell's Rob Pannell, a Tewaaraton Trophy finalist, also scored three.

"We started out slowly, feeling our way a little bit in the beginning," said Dom Starsia, who now has 327 career wins, passing Jack Emmer for the Division I record. "We couldn't have scripted the second quarter any better. We talked about making the most of those opportunities."

Virginia's Chris LaPierre scored with 2:41 left in the first quarter to make the score 4-2 and start the improbable scoring run, a drought that left Cornell scoreless for 22:33.

"The ball wasn't rolling our way early in the first quarter," said Stanwick, who had seven points in the game. "The team rallied behind that. We needed someone to make a play, and Chris stepped up."

Said Bocklet: "Once you get that spark, things can turn around."

And they certainly did. Eight different players, including LaPierre, scored goals in the stretch, one mark after another beating Cornell goalie A.J. Fiore and the Big Red defense.

Nick O'Reilly, a sophomore out of South Side High School on Long Island, who finished with two goals and one assist, is one of the players who grabbed a goal during that span. It came on a behind-the-back finish of a Stanwick crease feed on the right doorstep.

"They were shutting off Matt [White] with a short stick, and Nick is a hair quicker," Starsia said. "We could get the ball a little bit easier. We wanted to see if we could make a play, and we made a couple immediately. We were mixing and matching our personnel a little bit."

Cornell outscored Virginia 5-2 in the second half, with goals from their horses Ray Lang, Mock and Pannell, but the deficit was too large to overcome at any point in the final 30 minutes.

"When they had opportunities, they put it in the back of the net," said first-year Cornell coach Ben DeLuca. "They played as good as I've seen them play in the last few weeks. We helped them in that cause by making some poor decisions in the first half."

DeLuca said the Big Red lacked in the ground game and was stifled at times thanks to a Virginia zone defense that slowed the pace of the game.

"We couldn't get a run going," said Pannell, a Long Island native from Smithtown, N.Y. "We couldn't get into any flow and that was to Virginia's credit. It's been a great year for Cornell lacrosse."

News and Notes

Virginia goalie Adam Ghitelman made 13 saves compared to Fiore, who made eight... Starsia on setting the record on Long Island: "I don't think much about it in terms of coming back here until we hit the bridges," said Starsia, who grew up 10 minutes away from Hofstra in Valley Stream. "It's very special for me that it comes against a program like Cornell at this place in the NCAA quarterfinals..." It was a Tewaaraton Trophy showdown between Stanwick and Pannell. It's tough to say this game will have a final implication on who wins the Tewaaraton, but Pannell and Stanwick had drastically different games. Stanwick (3g, 4a) was a rock on offense for the Cavaliers, while Pannell was hindered a bit by Virginia's zone. He did reach the 40-goal plateau for the season... Virginia's Rob Emery and Cornell's Roy Lang both graduated from St. Ignatius High School in San Francisco. Their high school coach Chris Packard made the trip east.

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