PHILADELPHIA — When University Hall was imploded on Saturday morning, it took with it a space Virginia men’s lacrosse coach Lars Tiffany referred to as “The Bunker” — the location of Cavaliers’ defensive team meetings
“That’s where we planted the seeds,” said Tifanny, who took over the program three years ago.
The Bunker may be gone, but the defense that grew from meetings in the dimly lit, dingy bunker peaked in Monday’s NCAA national championship game at Lincoln Financial Field, where the Cavs shut down high-powered Yale 13-9 to capture UVa’s sixth national title.
“ What I’ve really enjoyed in Year 3 is when our defense gets together for that 20 or 25 minutes, there’s feedback, there’s back and forth and the men are coming to the meeting with their own ideas,” Tiffany said. “They’ve taken ownership of their success and it showed on the field.”
Yale (15-4) scored a collective 26 first-quarter goals in its previous three NCAA tournament games. Through the opening 15 minutes on Monday, Virginia (17-3) held the Bulldogs to just one.
Things didn’t get much better for the defending national champions. In the first half, Yale went more than 16 minutes without a goal, and managed just two by halftime — one coming on a man-up situation and the other when UVa goalie Alex Rode left the net open to help with a tussle for a loose ball.
“It’s just a great group of guys and they played so well, and they were just flying all over,” Rode said of the defense, “and that was a very good offense.”
The Bulldogs, who averaged 15.94 goals a game, never scored less than 10 goals in a game and broke the record for total NCAA tourney goals in a single postseason — a record that had been set by UVa’s 2006 squad.
On Monday, the Bulldogs’ offense was slowed by the Cavaliers’ methodical tempo and a UVa’s defensive unit that forced 15 of Yale’s 20 turnovers.
“It’s tough for sure, but you can’t really think of the last play,” Yale coach Andy Shay said. “You’ve got to keep moving forward and try to attack the next one with a clear mind and give it everything you’ve got. Virginia’s defense and their goalie played well today and unfortunately it wasn’t our day.”
Rode, who had 19 saves in Saturday’s win over Duke, collected nine saves against Yale by halftime and finished with 13. He was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player.
“We owe this game to Rode. Without him playing a great game, we wouldn’t be here,” fifth-year senior defender Logan Greco said. “He saved us a bunch of times when we made defensive mistakes. That saved our butts today and it’s why we held one of the best offenses in the country to only nine points.”
Matt Moore led Virginia’s offense with four goals and one assist. Andy Kraus finished with three goals, while Dox Aitken added two.
Moore scored UVa’s first two goals of the game, and the second moved him past former Cavalier Doug Knight for most points in a season. Moore finished his sophomore year with 89 points (46 goals, 43 assists), but records were secondary .
“It’s national title over everything,” Moore said. “This has been such a great experience, and we really came out today and I feel like we played all four quarters. That’s something we struggled with in the playoffs.”
The Bunker is no more, but with how UVa’s defense ended Tiffany’s third season as its head coach, he might have to scour the bowels of the team’s new home, the McCue Center, for a suitable replacement.