April 7, 2012

Virginia Pulls Away in Second Half to Beat UNC

by Henry Gargan | LaxMagazine.com | Live Blog Replay

Steele Stanwick had seven points, one shy of his career high, and Virginia used a six-goal run to down North Carolina in Chapel Hill on Saturday.
© John Strohsacker/LaxPhotos.com 

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – Top-ranked Virginia and No. 9 North Carolina are both capable of playing top-flight lacrosse. But what wins games is the capability to play that way for a full 60 minutes.

The Tar Heels, who start six underclassmen, showed flashes of brilliance against Virginia but weren't able to keep the pressure on for long enough to threaten the outcome.

Virginia controlled play in the first half and dominated in the second. The Cavaliers ultimately emerged with a 15-10 victory, surviving its second straight road test after defeating Maryland last weekend.

Virginia senior Steele Stanwick was one off his career-high point total, finishing with three goals and four assists. Chris Bocklet also had a hat trick for Virginia.

For the Tar Heels, freshman Chad Tutton notched three goals, and Jimmy Bitter and Marcus Holman contributed two apiece in front of 5,138 fans at Fetzer Field, the largest lacrosse home crowd since 1991.

Until the minutes leading into halftime it seemed like anyone's game. The Tar Heels never led, but dominance on faceoffs and a good volume of shots bode well. With 9:59 remaining in the second quarter, an equalizing goal for UNC from Marcus Holman tied the score at 4-4.

"I thought we missed some opportunities, a couple breaks, just dropped the ball a couple times," Virginia coach Dom Starsia said of his team's first-half performance. "We could have had a couple more goals to stretch that lead at halftime. So I wasn't unhappy about how we were playing, but we needed to be a little cleaner on the offensive end and finish a couple more of those opportunities."

But in an up-tempo game, cooler and more experienced heads prevailed for Virginia in the second half. In a 20-minute period after Holman's equalizer, Virginia scored six unanswered goals to pull ahead 10-4 on an Owen Van Arsdale score with 1:49 left in the third. The Cavaliers led by no fewer than four goals the rest of the game.

"I think we weren't clicking in the first half," Stanwick said. "But in the second half we kept punching away and we were able to get some balls in the back of the net, so it was a great win."

UNC especially had trouble containing Stanwick, the senior quarterback of the Virginia offense. He helped nine different players score for the Cavaliers.

"He can finish when he needs to, and he sets up his teammates, and I think that's his first instinct," Starsia said. "I think his greatest strength is making the people around him better."

The Tar Heels were unable to keep up consistent pressure on both ends of the field.

"We really didn't turn around until the fourth quarter," UNC freshman Chad Tutton said. "By the time we started to catch up it was too little, too late, so we just needed to come out and play 60 minutes of lacrosse."

Tutton's three goals came in the final period, the last of which was a back-to-the-goal, behind-the-back masterpiece. As a team, UNC went goal-for-goal with Virginia in the fourth quarter. But it was indeed too little, too late.

"From our standpoint, we showed our youth today," UNC coach Joe Breschi said. "Virginia's a senior-laden group, a veteran group there, and Stanwick sort of runs the whole show. ... So they're tough across the board, there's no real weakness to attack in general."

Breschi said his team wasn't able to sustain the energy it had during a a win against then-No. 1 Johns Hopkins last Sunday during the week of practice leading into the game Saturday against Virginia.

"We played as well as we practiced," he said. "We've been playing with an edge, a backs-against-the-wall mentality, but I don't think we played with that edge in practice. We have to get better this week."


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