HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. — An overtime strike capped a frantic comeback that gave Virginia its first appearance in the men’s lacrosse Final Four since 2011 and denied Maryland its sixth consecutive trip to the national semifinals. An apparent missed call moments earlier added to the drama of the 13-12 victory.
The sequence in question came with Virginia trailing 12-11 with 1:14 left in regulation Saturday afternoon at James M. Shuart Stadium. Attackman Michael Kraus’s shot beat Terrapins goalie Danny Dolan high to his stick side. The shot appeared, based on television replays, to hit the pipe and not completely cross the goal line.
Officials, however, awarded Kraus the goal to tie the NCAA tournament quarterfinal at 12.
“I just kind of closed my eyes when Mike caught it, so I don’t know,” said Dox Aitken, Virginia’s record-setting midfielder who assisted on Kraus’s tying goal. “I haven’t seen it.”
Then 45 seconds into the extra frame, Cavaliers attackman Matt Moore collected a pass from Kraus and stuck the winner to send Virginia (15-3), which had not led to that point, to its 23rd Final Four.
“At the end of the day, the refs are out there for a reason. They’re good at their jobs,” Terrapins midfielder Bubba Fairman said of the tying goal. “I mean, yeah, it’s tough to kind of look at it when you’re on the sideline and wonder whether or not that went in. I think the attitude on the sideline was let’s go get one back.”
The Cavaliers will face second-seeded Duke, which defeated Notre Dame, 14-13 in overtime, Saturday in Philadelphia for a spot in Monday’s national championship game.
Kraus’s tally was the Cavaliers’ fourth unanswered over 2:11 after they had trimmed the margin to 12-8 with 9:23 to play following a goal from midfielder Ryan Conrad. The senior tri-captain led Virginia with four goals, and sophomore attackman Ian Laviano added a hat trick.
Moore scored twice on the way to becoming the first Cavaliers player with 40 goals and 40 assists in a season. The sophomore also is the fourth player in program history to collect 80 points in a season, underscoring his contributions as a prominent recruit in the rebuild under Coach Lars Tiffany.
“These men truly draw upon each other,” Tiffany said. “They lean on each other, and it just starts with trust. Let’s certainly give Maryland a lot of credit. From my vantage point, you could tell they’ve been in this position many times as the game went on.”
In his third year directing the Cavaliers, Tiffany has assembled a balanced roster with players who have demonstrated uncommon poise when they face significant deficits.
Virginia, for instance, rallied from five goals down in the fourth quarter to beat Notre Dame, 13-11, on March 16. The ACC tournament champions beat Brown, Tiffany’s alma mater, in overtime, 14-13, despite a four-goal deficit in the fourth quarter March 10.
The Cavaliers also trailed Syracuse by four goals before coming back for a 15-14 triumph in overtime on March 2.
“Honestly it’s just something that we rely on all the time,” Conrad said. “We’ve had so much experience just in this one year of so many comeback victories. Every single kid on the team has the confidence. We don’t even need to say it, but we still have guys out there saying, ‘Hey, we’ve been here before.’”
The Terrapins (12-5), meanwhile, were bidding for their second national title in three years after some anxious moments leading to the unveiling of the NCAA tournament field.
The Terrapins had lost their regular season finale and the first-round game of the Big Ten tournament, both to Johns Hopkins, placing them squarely on the tournament bubble. They wound up earning an at-large berth when the selection committee valued their body of work over that of Cornell.
A 14-13 overtime win against Towson in the first round of the NCAA tournament had Maryland within a game of a 27th appearance in the national semifinals.
Junior Jared Bernhardt and sophomore Anthony DeMaio, both attackmen, led Maryland with four goals apiece. DeMaio had two goals and Bernhardt one during a 5-0 run bridging the third and fourth quarters, but the Terrapins unraveled down the stretch amid faceoff and groundball deficiencies.
Maryland ended minus-seven in faceoffs and minus-four in groundballs over the fourth quarter and overtime, leaving Coach John Tillman assessing blame elsewhere than the officiating.
After all, the Terrapins also appeared to catch a break when officials overlooked Bernhardt’s foot in the crease during a goal in the first half.
“It happened so fast,” Tillman said of Kraus’s tying goal. “You see the ball released, and then just it happens, and all of a sudden the ball pops out. I didn’t obviously have as good a vantage point as the guys on the field, so you’re just kind of trusting that.
“I did ask [the officials], ‘We’re 100 percent sure it went in?’ They were like, ‘Listen, if we weren’t convinced, we wouldn’t make that call.’ I’m not sure I could ask much more than that.”