By Joe Santoliquito
For Phillylacrosse.com, Posted 5/26/19
Dox Aitken couldn’t exactly nail down the phrase. But the Virginia standout certainly knew enough about the history the Cavaliers have had against their ACC nemesis Duke. Duke had owned Virginia, to the tune of winning 19 of the last 20 games.
Meeting 21, on the large stage, was different.
Aitken, the former Haverford School star, and Matt Moore, from Garnet Valley, combined to score 5 goals and hand out 3 assists in Virginia’s 13-12 double overtime victory over Duke in the NCAA Tournament semifinals on Saturday before 32,612 at Lincoln Financial Field.
Virginia (16-3) now moves to play defending national champion Yale, a 21-17 winner over No. 1 Penn State, on Monday for the NCAA national championship at 1 p.m. Monday.
It was Moore’s two assists to Ian Laviano, with one goal coming with :15 left in regulation that tied it at 12-12 and the game-winning goal with 3:09 in the sixth period, that provided the winning margin.
And for Aitken to reflect on the terrible history Virginia had against the Blue Devils (13-5).
“Yeah, they’ve had our number since we’ve all been here, and we knew that that was a ‘monkey on our back’ for a while,” said Aitken, the 2016 Phillylacrosse.com Co-Player of the Year. “But we really this week tried to separate the history from this game, because it was the biggest stage that we’ve been on, and we really just focused on ourselves this week.
“We didn’t think about, you know, the 800-pound gorilla, or whatever it’s called. We just stuck to our game plan. It means a lot to us, because they’re obviously a great team.”
It got a little sketchy there for Virginia. The Cavaliers led 1-0, then didn’t lead again until Laviano provided the game-winning goal. It looked as if Duke had it won, when the Blue Devils were up, 12-10, with 1:56 left to play.
But there’s been something about this Virginia team that’s enabled it to live on the brink this year without toppling over.
The Cavaliers trailed, 5-2, after the first half and turned the ball over 14 times to Duke’s 2. Virginia didn’t erupt until the fourth quarter, when it scored five times to send the game into overtime.
“You should be asking me, Coach, what are you doing the first three quarters?” Virginia coach Lars Tiffany said. “Obviously you have a team that can score in bunches, you can win face-offs in the game, what’s wrong with you the first three quarters? That’s what you should be asking.
“I’m going to tell you, I told our guys, Memorial Day Monday, the fourth quarter is the first quarter, can we come out with that type of passion and energy? But there is something to, if you’ve never been in the moment before, can you block out the 30- 35,000 fans, and 35,000 empty seats staring at you, and it’s hard. We felt that early against Hofstra, and we felt that early again today. How many balls did we sail over people’s heads?
“If there was a drink of experience, drink this, protein shake with experience, good, we’re all there. Just having been here once, I’m no seasoned veteran, but having that experience helped me this week. Now we’re just gonna, whether it’s founded or not, tell them, all right, you’ve been here before, you’ve played a game here, now you’re all veterans of this.”
Moore was amazing. His patience in two pressure situations spelled the winning difference.
“It took me two quarters until I finally felt myself get into the groove,” said Moore, who also scored twice. “I felt really everyone on our team’s feet didn’t touch the ground until the second half. The guys on offense started clicking and we started really playing well.
“Whenever I dodge, I look for Ian, but I didn’t know how much (time) we had (left) in regulation, we just needed to do what we do in practice,” Moore said. “We draw those plays all of the time, and Ian does a great job cutting.
“I remember as a kid watching Virginia beat Maryland in 2006. It was crazy, I remember telling my dad how I wanted to play here at the Linc. It’s here. I remember it all. My dad sent me a text about it earlier, ‘Remember when you wanted to play here as a little kid?’”
Virginia will play in the NCAA championship for the first time since 2011 on Monday.