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Virginia vs. Cornell lacrosse: Cavaliers reach Final Four with record-setting win for Coach Dom Starsia

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HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. — Virginia men’s lacrosse Coach Dom Starsia set an NCAA record with his 327th victory in Division I play in a 13-9 victory over Cornell in an NCAA quarterfinal before a record crowd of 13,447 at Hofstra University on Saturday.

In the first half, Starsia showed why he has those wins. Virginia used a 9-0 run spanning the first and second quarters to erase an early deficit. On offense, the Cavaliers used a four-attackman set, a five-attackman set and went directly at Cornell’s standout longstick defensemen. All three tactics resulted in goals.

On defense, Virginia shut out Cornell by using a zone defense, then man-to-man, then back to zone.

“I don’t think we could have scripted the second quarter any better,” Starsia said.

The Cavaliers (11-5), seeded No. 7, will play Denver (15-2) in an NCAA semifinal on Saturday at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore.

Initially, it looked like the Big Red (14-3) would be advancing.

Cornell went ahead 4-1 on a goal by sophomore Steve Mock with 3 minutes 57 seconds left in the first quarter. It was Cornell’s last goal of the half. From that point until halftime — a span of 18:57 — Cornell had the ball for just 7:25 and shot 0 for 8.

Meantime, in the crucial stretch, Virginia took 17 shots; it made nine.

The run culminated in a goal by junior Chris Bocklet, off an assist from sophomore Nick O’Reilly, for a 10-4 lead with 17 seconds left in the first half.

Cornell junior attackman Rob Pannell, the two-time Ivy League player of the year, entered as the leader of the offense and one of the top players in the nation. He was ranked in the top 10 nationally in goals per game, assists per game and points per game.

Yet during Virginia’s crucial run, Pannell took just one shot (it was blocked), and none in the final 17:50 of the half.

Pannell finished with three goals but took 10 shots, had four turnovers and did not have an assist for the second time this year against Virginia. He entered second in the nation in assists per game (2.94).

“First and foremost, he is looking to feed,” Virginia senior defenseman Bray Malphrus said of Pannell. “We knew we had to cover up off-ball. Everyone was well aware of Pannell when the ball was in his stick.”

Virginia’s offense has changed since senior midfielder Shamel Bratton, a two-time first-team all-American, was dismissed from the program in late April and his twin brother Rhamel was suspended indefinitely and has not come back to the team.

Without the Brattons, the offense has become centered around junior Steele Stanwick. The transformation was shown in games against Cornell.

In an 11-9 victory over the Big Red on March 12, the Brattons combined for three goals and an assist; Stanwick was scoreless.

On Saturday, Stanwick had three goals and four assists. His final goal came with 48 seconds left. Following a timeout, the Big Red double-teamed Stanwick with two longsticks as he was set to inbound the ball right in front of the Cornell sideline. When the whistle blew, Stanwick looked at the defenders, then lofted a perfect shot that landed in the net for the final goal.

In a 13-12 overtime victory over Bucknell in last week’s first round, Stanwick had three goals and five assists.

About the second quarter, “it’s been a while since we played a quarter like that,” Stanwick said.

Said Cornell Coach Ben DeLuca of Stanwick: “He’s a phenomenal player and a great attackman. We had a lot of trouble with him today.”

Starsia, meantime, won his 327th game on the same field where he coached his first game.

“It was quite a remarkable day in so many different ways,” Starsia said.

Later in the day, sixth-seeded Denver advanced to the Final Four for the first time with a 14-9 victory over No. 3 Johns Hopkins (13-3) in the second quarterfinal. No team from outside the Eastern time zone has ever won the NCAA men’s lacrosse title.

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