PHILADELPHIA — There was no question what was at stake Saturday as Virginia prepared for its meeting with Duke in the Division I men’s lacrosse semifinals.
“We brought all of our stuff to this game from the hotel,” UVa senior Ryan Conrad said, “so we had to earn our way back to the hotel. We came over to win one game.”
Virginia now finds itself in Monday’s NCAA championship game after a 13-12 overtime victory over Duke.
The Cavaliers will play at 1 p.m. against Yale, which upset top-seeded Penn State 21-17 in Saturday’s second semifinal.
Virginia (16-3) had led Duke only twice all afternoon — at 1-0 and 2-1 — before Ian Laviano scored on a pass from Matt Moore with 51 seconds elapsed in the second four-minute sudden-victory overtime.
“They’ve had our number,” UVa junior Dox Aiken said of the Blue Devils, who had won 18 of the previous 20 games with the Cavaliers, including 11 in a row.
“Earlier this week, we tried to separate the history from this game. We didn’t think about the 800-pound gorilla in the room.”
Aiken had three goals and an assist against Duke.
Virginia had won all four of its previous overtime games this season, including a 13-12 triumph one week earlier over Maryland, which had led by five goals in the fourth quarter.
Duke (13-5) led by as many as four goals at 8-4, and the Blue Devils were ahead 11-8 with under nine minutes remaining.
The Cavaliers countered with a pair of goals by Aiken but still trailed 12-11 before Moore connected with Laviano — the eventual game-winning combination — with 15 seconds remaining in regulation.
Petey LaSalla, a 5-foot-7 freshman, won 18 of 30 faceoffs, including eight in a row to end the game. Laviano, a 5-8 sophomore, had a team-high four goals in registering his 10th hat trick of the season.
Senior midfielder Brad Smith had a team-high three goals for Duke, which got two goals from sophomore Joe Robertson, a Virginian.
It was the 12th trip to the NCAA semifinals for Duke.
“In some ways, the game was a microcosm of our season,” Duke coach John Danowski said. “Our kids, at certain times, they just get tight. They don’t enjoy — or they don’t play — with a freedom.”
Danowski attributes some of his team’s late-season woes to the goaltending play of its opponents . Virginia sophomore Alex Rode was credited with 19 saves Saturday.
“Virginia plays simple offensively,” Danowski said. “There is nothing magical about what they do. If you take a look, three of their players [Aiken, Ryan Conrad and Michael Kraus] took 35 shots.
“They play very simply but, in their simplicity, they’re very good at it. They’re highly skilled players and you knew at halftime we weren’t going to hold them to four goals.”
The Cavaliers are making their first title game appearance since beating Maryland in the 2011 final in Baltimore.
In his third season as Virginia’s coach, Lars Tiffany becomes the fourth different coach to take UVa to the championship game. It will be his first trip to the final. His 2016 Brown team lost in the semifinals.
“I sat in this room three years ago and, as an aside, I don’t want this to be about me,” Tiffany said. “What I said three years ago was, ‘Boy, that was fun.’ We had another fun one today.”