COLLEGE PARK — A pair of firsts helped the Maryland men's lacrosse team gain sole possession of first place in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Sophomore Henry West recorded a career-high five points on his first career hat trick and two assists in his first start in the midfield, and freshman Connor Cannizzaro added two goals and one assist in his first start at the attack position to propel the No. 7 Terps to a 9-6 win over No. 8 Virginia before an announced 3,424 at Byrd Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
Senior goalkeeper Niko Amato made 10 saves, and junior Charlie Raffa won 14 of 19 faceoffs and collected a game-high 10 ground balls as Maryland improved to 8-1 overall and 3-1 in the conference. The win gave the team a half-game lead over No. 3 Duke (9-2, 2-1) and No. 5 Notre Dame (4-3, 2-1) in the race for the regular-season championship and the top seed in the ACC tournament on the final weekend of April.
The Terps benefited from tweaking their starting lineup.
Cannizzaro, who had started the previous eight games in the midfield, slid to attack to replace junior attackman Jay Carlson (St. Paul's), and West was moved from the second midfield to join senior Mike Chanenchuk and junior Joe LoCascio on the first line.
West scored the eventual game-winner with 5:49 left in the third quarter and posted both of his assists in the second half, while Cannizzaro scored two goals in a pivotal third quarter in which Maryland overcame a 5-3 deficit to take a 7-6 lead.
"I don't think you ever expect to get a hat trick and five points, but we just focused on us and played offense like we were taught to by [associate head] coach [Ryan] Moran and [head] coach [John] Tillman," said West, a Cornell transfer who had entered the game with six goals and three assists this season. "Guys just found me in open spots, and I was able to put shots on net in good spots, and they went in. And when I passed the ball to guys, they were able to finish their shots."
Cannizzaro said moving to attack didn't require that much of an adjustment.
"When we're put on the field, we're told to know every position," he said. "So if you go in as a middie or attack, you have to play from behind or up top because we run a lot of different offenses. So when you're out there, you have to be ready to play anything and work together. So it didn't change that much."
Trailing, 5-3, at halftime, Maryland scored four consecutive goals in the third quarter — two from Cannizzaro and one each from West and Chanenchuk. Even after Virginia (8-3, 1-2) scored with 1:55 left in the period, the Terps closed out the game with a man-up goal from LoCascio with 11:20 remaining in the fourth quarter and an even-strength tally from freshman attackman Matt Rambo with 3:37 left.
Raffa, who had won 61.5 percent (83 of 135) of his faceoffs and picked up 55 ground balls before Sunday, won 7 of 9 in the second half. Raffa's performance helped Maryland maintain possession for 20:30 of the second half and give the offense as many chances as it had.
The imbalance also meant that a Cavaliers offense that had averaged 13.8 goals was held to a season-low output. Their vaunted attack of senior Mark Cockerton, junior Owen Van Arsdale and sophomore James Pannell combined for just two goals on 11 shots, zero assists and three turnovers.
"We watched a lot of film of them, so we kind of learned their tendencies," Terps sophomore defenseman Matt Dunn (Loyola Blakefield), who prevented Cockerton from scoring a goal for the first time in 25 games. "They're a very talented attack unit. So we obviously had to make special adjustments for that. It was more of a team defensive unit because they love to run a lot of picks, and the middies got involved, too. So it was our seven versus their six offensive guys."
Maryland collected 35 ground balls to Virginia's 22, and the difference of 11 ground balls in the second half stood out to Cavaliers coach Dom Starsia.
"I thought Maryland carried the play to us on the ground in the second half," he said. "That was the difference. It was that, the fact that we weren't winning faceoffs easily, Niko makes a couple of saves in the third quarter when we had a chance to climb into the game. So I don't think it was any one thing. I think it was a bunch of little things. I thought Maryland kind of upped the ante in the second half."Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun