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Duke men's lacrosse falls to Virginia in Final Four off late Cavalier surge

PHILADELPHIA–Looking to get back to the title game for the second straight season and avenge last year’s loss, the Blue Devils fell one game short. 

For just the second time in the last 21 matchups, No. 2 Duke lost to Virginia, falling 13-12 at Lincoln Financial Field Saturday afternoon. In a tale of two halves, the Cavaliers offense came alive in the final 30 minutes after being shut down in the first half while Alex Rode fended off Duke’s offensive onslaught in cage to upend the Blue Devils in double overtime. 

"You know, they clearly beat us, and it was a terrific -- very proud of our guys for hanging in there with them. Our guys gave great effort as well, but they were just clearly the more skilled team," head coach John Danowski said.

With the score tied at 12, Petey LaSalla won Virginia’s seventh straight faceoff to give the No. 3 Cavaliers the ball in the first OT. After using a timeout to set up the offense, Virginia could not find paydirt and gave Duke a chance to win. Two huge Rode saves – pushing his total to 19 on the day – staved off the Blue Devils offense and sent the game to a second extra period. 

LaSalla won yet another faceoff to open the second overtime and this time, the Cavaliers converted. Ian Laviano scored the game-winning goal, his fourth of the game, off a pass from Matt Moore to send his squad to the national championship game, the 10th in program history.

Despite holding Virginia to 50 percent shooting on just four shots on goal in the opening half to take a 5-2 lead, Duke could not slow the Cavaliers offense in the second half. Virginia tallied five goals in the third, scoring three straight after going down 8-4 with just over 7 minutes remaining in the penultimate quarter to enter the final period down just one. 

"We knew they were going to go harder in the second half," defensemen Cade Van Raaphorst said. "They went into the invert package pretty much ever possession, whether it was lack of communication or something, but we just couldn't make the stops we needed to and couldn't clear the ball when we had to, and they capitalized on it.

Although Duke’s Brian Smyth and Kevin Quigley notched a pair of goals in the first 64 seconds of the fourth quarter to extend the lead back to three, the Cavaliers had another response waiting. After Brad Smith and Laviano traded goals, Virginia cut the gap to two off an extra-man goal from Dox Aitken. The junior midfielder then completed a hat trick, scoring with 7:55 left in the contest to cut the lead in half at 11-10.

The Blue Devils responded with a Quigley goal with 1:56 left but the Cavaliers won the ensuing faceoff. Despite Virginia turning the ball over, Duke’s Terry Lindsay threw the ball away on the clear to give the Cavaliers another chance with 1:17 left. Michael Kraus did not waste the extra chance, scoring with 46 seconds left to give his team an opportunity to tie the game. Virginia won the ensuing faceoff with a Blue Devil violation and Laviano scored with 14.4 seconds left to even the contest and send the game to extra time. 

"In some ways the game was a microcosm of our season. Our kids at certain times they just get tight," Danowski said. "They don't enjoy or they don't play with a freedom or – you know, they just get tight, whether it's they just want to win so badly that they get tight, or they want somebody else to make a play, whatever it is."

The Cavaliers had 36 shots and 19 shots on goal in the second half and overtime, a stark contrast to the opening half. Virginia’s four stars – Laviano, Moore, Kraus and Aitken – combined for 10 goals and seven assists while LaSalla won 18 of 30 faceoffs. Brian Smith led Duke with three goals while three other Blue Devils had two goals each. Duke finished with 48 shots and 31 on goal for the contest.

"I think offensively the story of the day was shooting. We didn't shoot the ball that well," Smith said. "When you get that number of shots and you only score outside of the face-off game, you only score nine goals, that's not a great shooting day, so I think that would be -- that came and reared its head in overtime as well."

After the Cavaliers broke a 20-plus minute scoring drought to open the third quarter on Aitken’s first tally of the game, CJ Carpenter responded for the Blue Devils on the other end with his second goal of the contest. Another Virginia goal cut the deficit back to two but Joe Robertson connected on his second goal of the day on an extra-man opportunity to keep Duke up three with 7:10 left. Smyth then took the faceoff to the house just seven seconds later for the Blue Devils to give them a four-goal cushion.

However, Petey LaSalla responded just eight seconds later off the faceoff to leave the score at 8-5 with 6:55 left. Goals from Moore and Laviano in the final three minutes cut the lead to 8-7 with 15 minutes left in regulation and set the stage for the finish. 

The first quarter set the tone for the opening half, despite Duke facing a 2-1 deficit. Although the scoreboard displayed a Virginia advantage – a product of five saves from Rode – the Blue Devils had three more shots on goal and four fewer turnovers. 

The scoring tides changed in the second quarter however, as Duke was able to convert on the offense end while the defense posted a blank sheet. Holding Virginia to just a single shot on goal in the period and totaling five caused turnovers in the half, the Blue Devils jumped to a 5-2 lead. 

Smith tallied two goals in the half while Nakeie Montgomery dished out a pair of assists to lead the offense while long-stick defender Van Raaphorst and long-stick midfielder Peter Welch each had two forced turnovers. 

Virginia will take on the winner of the other semifinal contest, played between top-seeded Penn State and No. 5 seed Yale.

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