Freshman midfielder Jared Mintzlaff's shot sailed over the goal as time expired and No. 9 Virginia held off No. 7 Loyola Maryland, 13-12, in the season opening game for both teams before an announced crowd of 3,387 at the Ridley Athletic Complex.
Virginia took a 13-11 lead on a goal by sophomore midfielder Zed Williams with 3:11 left in the game, but Loyola pulled within one when junior attackman Zach Herreweyers scored with 2:04 remaining.
The Greyhounds had another opportunity before Mintzlaff's last shot, but Nikko Pontrello's pass to the right of the goal sailed over the head off fellow attackman Jordan Germershausen with 28 seconds remaining.
The outcome was similar to the season-opening game played between the two teams last year, which the Cavaliers won, 14-13, in overtime.
"This is a big first step for us in a long season," said Virginia coach Dom Starsia. "We still have a long, long way to go. We missed a lot of opportunities and there were a lot of things we could have done better. But this is a big 'W' for us at this point and will pay off well for us down the road."
It was a tightly-played game throughout but the biggest difference was the play at midfield. Loyola couldn't stop Virginia midfielders Greg Coholan (four goals) and Williams (three) from scoring, or prevent midfielders Ryan Lukacovic and Williams, who each had two assists, from breaking the defense down at the restraining line.
Almost as importantly, Virginia hustled back on defense, slowing Loyola's high-power transition game, and at times appeared to frustrate the Greyhounds offense in their half-field set. Loyola had 14 turnovers, 10 in the first half.
"We aren't bigger than a lot of teams, but we're faster than most," said Loyola coach Charley Toomey. "Give Virginia credit, they did a good job of switching from man to zone, and there were times we weren't able to complete passes. We had a lot of turnovers and some of that had to do with our stick work. But I still think our best offense — transition wise — is ahead of us."
Midfielder Romar Dennis and Herreweyers each had three goals to pace Loyola. It was Dennis who led the comeback attempt in the final quarter. Virginia had taken a 12-9 lead on Lukacovic's goal with 7:06 left in the game, but Dennis dropped two long-range bombs within the next 2:30 to pull Loyola within one, 12-11.
But after the second goal, Virginia adjusted, sliding hard to Dennis when he touched the ball and forcing the Greyhounds to pass and try to go backside, which didn't work.
Even though Virginia gave up 12 goals, the Cavaliers defense played reasonably well considering they were starting two freshmen and one senior, Davi Sacco, who played in only six games last year.
"We all came into this game on the same level," Sacco said. "No one was talking down to the other person. I think we were focused, handled ourselves well and played together. It was a good team effort."
Loyola had 13 players Saturday who were seeing action in their first college game. The Greyhounds had a 38-27 advantage in ground balls and won 19 of 28 faceoffs. But the turnovers and some questionable goalkeeping early in the third quarter will draw a lot of attention from Toomey this week as the Greyhounds prepare for Penn State next Saturday.
The first half was as tightly played as the second half. Neither team could take charge in the first two quarters, but Loyola tied the score, 5-5, on a goal by sophomore Ryan Fournier with 5:34 left in the second period.
Nearly 36 seconds later, Dennis scored from just inside the restraining line when he blew by Will McNamara for a goal to give the Greyhounds a one-goal lead.
But with 3:21 left in the period, Virginia senior attackman Owen Van Arsdale ripped a shot over the right shoulder of goalie Pat McEnerney to tie to score, 6-6, at the half.
Virginia outshot Loyola, 23-17, in the half and the Greyhounds didn't help themselves with 10 turnovers. Virginia, though, failed to score on two extra-man opportunities and McEnerney finished with six saves, three from point-blank range.