Virginia Holds Off Drexel
It was a frigid afternoon at Klockner Stadium Saturday, but that did not deter loyal Virginia fans from coming out in droves to UVA’s lacrosse season opener. Drexel (0-0) came into the match with the intention of upsetting the #9 Cavaliers (0-0), who hold the all-time series mark between the two teams – 11-1. However, the last time the Hoos lost a season opener was in 2007 when they faced the Dragons.
Virginia jumped out to an early 2-0 lead after Juniors Rob Emery and Nick O’Reilly scored within the first five minutes. Drexel tried in vain to answer, but the poor decision making of Drexel’s players and the stifling defense of Virginia, lead by goalkeeper Dan Marino, were too much adversity to overcome early.
Nick O’Reilly would score his second goal of the game before Drexel even got on the scoreboard. Despite leading by 3, Virginia was visibly loosing focus and not playing as sharp.
Finally taking advantage of a Virginia team that was playing increasingly poorly in the period, Drexel capitalized following a brief skirmish in front of the Virginia’s net, cutting the deficit to 2.
As the first period drew to a close, Virginia led 3-1, but momentum began tilting in the Dragons favor. And they would take advantage of it in the subsequent quarter.
After Senior Matt White put the Cavs up by 3, scoring at the 11:50 mark in the second, Drexel went on a tear. The Dragons scored and scored and Virginia had no answer. At the end of the period, many Cavalier fans must have been baffled. After playing atrociously in the first, Drexel looked as if they were the favorites to win the match, scoring 4 unanswered goals.
Down 5-4, Virginia went into the break looking to rebound. The following half was an exciting shootout between two teams determined not to begin the season with a loss.
The third period saw the Virginia offense return with a fury, as they exchanged goal after goal with the Dragons. Neither team had a visible advantage throughout the quarter. As one team scored, only brief moments would pass before the other team matched them with a goal of their own.
When the dust settled and the period came to a conclusion, the game was tied at 8 apiece. The fans were in for a thrilling finale. With little defense, it appeared that the game would be won by whoever had possession last.
O’Reilly, already having a stellar game, was the catalyst for the scoring in the fourth quarter when he assisted a goal by Sophomore Owen Van Arsdale at 12:42.
But, similar to the third period, Drexel was prepared to exchange body blows and managed to slide another ball past Marino to tie the game again. UVA answered immediately when Junior Mick Parks charged to the net and passed off the ball to whom else but O’Reilly. O’Reilly returned the ball to Parks after he had shaken the defense and smashed the ball home. Virginia lead 10-9.
But Drexel did not answer this time. With 5:15 left in the match, Virginia scored again to extend their lead to 11-9. Perhaps Drexel was finished. Perhaps this two-point lead would prove enough to win. But no, Drexel stormed back scoring at 4:14 and 1:23 to tie the game. Overtime was peeking over the horizon.
Senior Charlie Steep did all he could to prevent overtime. After Virginia forced a turnover, Steep rocketed a shot past the net with only 45 seconds remaining in the contest. UVA spectators jumped to their feet and cheered in jubilation. Surely this would be enough to make Drexel capitulate.
But the fans, who began to grow restless with anticipation of the win, were incredulous only moments later. Despite all odds, Drexel scored with 10 seconds left. As the clock ticked to zero, tension mounted for an overtime that could go either teams way.
But to the relief of the audience at Klockner stadium, Virginia was victorious. Matt White would score in only eleven seconds, assisted by the man of the hour, O’Reilly. Virginia was fortunate to leave with a win, bolstered by the play of Nick O’Reilly and Matt White.
Virginia will look to tighten up its defense when it faces VMI on February 19. The games will be held at Klockner starting at 7pm.
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