It wasn't the perfect game, but it was a complete game by Virginia.
At different points during the contest, the No. 5 Cavaliers played great defense, superb offense and overcame injuries. They were able to get a nice lead and then close out it out in the final quarter as they defeated No. 9 Syracuse, 11-8, yesterday before 20,180 at M&T; Bank Stadium.
"The most important part of today's game is how we closed out the last 10 minutes," said Virginia attackman Ben Rubeor, who finished with three goals and two assists. "We established a lead and proved to ourselves that we can hold onto that lead. We didn't make the smartest plays out there, but we continue to play hard and get the ball off the ground, and I believe we can grow from this."
That in itself was a huge statement -- when a team is suffering from growing pains and can still beat the Orange. Virginia (2-1) is a team in transition trying to find the right chemistry. The Cavaliers have defenseman Tim Shaw handling a short stick for the first time, and midfielder Will Barrow has also been moved around. Ken Clausen is in his first season playing on close defense.
Virginia coach Dom Starsia is working a lot of combinations, and it's showing up on the field during this young season. The Cavaliers gave up six goals in the first quarter as the game was tied at 7 at the half, but then held Syracuse (1-2) scoreless for the final 20 minutes of the game.
Virginia goalie Kip Turner got hot in the second half with nine saves compared with only three in the first. With each save, defensemen Matt Kelly, Ricky Smith and Clausen became more confident and even more daring.
"I thought we had a good scheme defensively, which we didn't implement at all in the first quarter," Starsia said. "I thought it was a terrific lacrosse game, two good teams getting after it. I thought there was a lot of nervous energy out there on the field in the fist quarter. I thought we were heading to another 22-21 [game] again for a minute, and I was not happy about it, frankly. But Kip made a couple of stops for us and got us going."
"I was a little nervous there at the beginning after the first quarter," Turner said. "Obviously, I was a little shaken. At halftime, you've got to gather yourself. You know goals are going to be scored, and that's going to happen, but you have to move on."
The game remained close until the final four minutes of the third period when Virginia scored three unanswered goals for a 10-8 lead at the end of the period.
The Cavaliers didn't do anything fancy during the scoring surge, just matching up one on one with Syracuse players behind the goal, and beating them.
Rubeor scored with 4:33 left in the third quarter when he left Orange defender Evan Brady a step behind from the left of the goal. Virginia midfielder Foster Gilbert then isolated on Syracuse midfielder John Carrozza with 3:11 remaining and fellow middie Danny Glading closed out the scoring in the period with 49 seconds remaining.
Virginia midfielder Drew Thompson scored the only goal of the fourth quarter with 7:39 remaining as the largest crowd to witness a regular-season college lacrosse game began to file out of the stadium.
"When you play Syracuse, you like to attack them as much as you can, and you kind of see what happens," Starsia said. "They're not a team where you can anticipate their defensive patterns, so you've got to bring it on your own, first and foremost.
"If you can get to the goal unextended, you just keep coming, and you might be able to turn the corner a couple of times and get some opportunities. Clearly, our guys have to play with their heads up, and it doesn't get any more complicated than that."
Virginia 5 2 3 1 -- 11
Syracuse 6 1 1 0 -- 8
Goals: V--Rubeor 3, Billings 2, Thompson 2, Glading, B. Carroll, Giannone, Gilbert. S-- Rommel 2, Niewieroski, Nims, Hardy, Abbott, Perritt. Assists: V--Rubeor 2, Billings, Glading. S--Coluccini 5. Saves: V--Turner 12. S--Coluccini 5.