Virginia Lacrosse Falls Hard to Cornell, 15-6

Ben GibsonSenior Analyst IMay 24, 2009


Virginia had been the one dispensing the pain for the first two rounds of the NCAA lacrosse tournament but saw the tables turned on Saturday in the Final Four.

Cornell, the Ivy League champions, who had lost to Virginia 14-10 earlier this year cruised to the championship match against Syracuse with a 15-6 victory.

The game was almost over from the start for the Cavaliers.

Virginia had gotten off to a great start these last two games, outscoring their opponents by a combined score of 15-1.

Against Cornell, the Cavaliers were trailing 4-1 after the first 15 minutes.

Virginia's defense, which had been applying sound and aggressive pressure in their last two contests decided to not show up.  Instead, the Cavaliers resorted to a listless form of defense that fans had not seen since the Duke debacle in the ACC tournament.

Cornell's first five goals were all shots from within a seven-foot radius of the goal.

These point blank shots were a combination of a patient Cornell offense and a poorly communicated Virginia defense.

Cavalier goalie Adam Ghitelman certainly did not have a great deal of help from his teammates, but when his team needed him to make some big saves and start a run, he was unable to oblige.

The Cavaliers could not get closer than six goals in the second half, when Cornell knocked in a transition goal after the lead had been trimmed to 12-6, it more or less meant the end of championship dreams for the No. 1 seed Virginia.

Even though Cornell has been run by its vaunted senior class, it was freshman Rob Pannell who stole the show with three goals and three assists on the day.

He and his fellow attackers combined for 9 of the team's 15 goals, eight of those goals were assisted.

Indeed, Cornell was able to put on a clinic before a national audience.

Virginia's coach Dom Starsia could really only sit and watch as he saw his team being out-hustled and outplayed for 60 straight minutes in New England.

Cavalier fans will leave the 2009 season scratching their heads.

A team that looked so good one minute looked just that bad the next.

This is to take nothing away from the Big Red.  Cornell is a dangerous team and looks like it may be well on their way to winning its first national championship since winning three in a row in the early 1970s.

Still, Virginia is left to wonder what could have been.

The Cavaliers went down not with a bang but with a whimper.  They know they could have done better, but in many ways, that is how this senior class will be remembered.

Attackers Danny Glading and Garrett Billings are amazing goal scorers, and were invaluable pieces to the undefeated championship team in 2006. 

However, some people, including former Virginia's Tewaaraton trophy winner Matt Ward, called out the leadership on this team.

As talented as Glading and Billings are, these soft-spoken good guys could not will their team to victory like Ward, J.J. Morrissey and Michael Culver.

Certainly Virginia had a great season, any appearance in the Final Four is nothing to sneeze at.

Still, in the past three years Virginia's season ended by losing an embarrassing opening round game to Delaware, throwing away a big lead late against Syracuse and being routed by Cornell.

The class of 2009 also boasts zero victories against Duke.

In other words, despite all the great accomplishments and big wins, this team is still a step or two away from becoming a championship team.

For the past three years, when most teams try to progress towards becoming champions it is almost undeniable that Virginia has regressed during the course of the season.

Even when it appeared Virginia had finally peaked in May and not March this season, the Cavaliers ran into a Big Red mess.

Nevertheless, hope springs eternal in Charlottesville, VA. The Cavaliers have the talent, now they need the leaders.

One candidate may actually be the ACC rookie of the year, Steele Stanwick.

Stanwick, wearing former Virginia captain and current grad assistant Ben Rubeor's number, was a bright spot for the Cavaliers with two goals and an assist.

Stanwick's 36 goals on the season was second best on the team, but what was more impressive was his consistency and his ability to make those shots when they counted. 

Stanwick scored a goal in every game this season except one.

Nine times Stanwick scored four points or more in the game and five of those came against tournament teams.

Will Stanwick prove that he can be the next great Cavalier and lead his team to a championship before his career is said and done?

Will Cornell continue its impressive run and ruin Syracuse's hopes of a repeat championship?

Will I run out of questions to end this article with?



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