BALTIMORE, — Virginia’s vast experience on the biggest stage was evident in its matchup against Denver in the NCAA men’s lacrosse semifinals on Saturday.
Steele Stanwick had three goals and two assists, leading the seventh-seeded Cavaliers to 14-8 victory over sixth-seeded Denver. Virginia will play Maryland for the title Monday.
The four-time champions seized control early in their 22nd appearance in the Final Four. Stanwick and Chris Bocklet scored two goals apiece as Virginia led 9-2 at halftime.
“If we had talked about how we would have liked to have scripted that first half, it wouldn’t have been much different from what you saw out there,” Virginia coach Dom Starsia said.
Jeremy Noble scored three times for Denver (15-3), which was making its first appearance in the semifinals. The Pioneers, held without a goal for the final 25:25 of the first half, were able to outscore Virginia 4-1 in the fourth quarter to make the score more respectable.
“I thought they looked a little nervous,” Starsia said. “When we got up early, there was a little bit of panic in their eyes.”
Bocklet and Mark Cockerton finished with three goals apiece for Virginia (12-5), which advanced to the finals for the ninth time. Matt White had a goal and two assists while Adam Ghitelman made 10 saves.
“They were outstanding, from Adam Ghitelman in the goal through the midfield and all the way to Steele Stanwick up front on attack,” Denver coach Bill Tierney said. “Virginia was fantastic, and you have to give credit to their players for that.”
Tierney and Starsia felt the greatest difference in experience showed up in the goal.
Ghitelman is a senior who ranks third all-time in Division I with 49 victories. Meanwhile, Denver freshman goalie Jamie Faus looked shaky, going more than 15 minutes without stopping a shot and finishing with a save percentage of 36.3 that was his worst of the season.
“We put some pressure on the young kid in goal and took advantage of the opportunities we did create,” Starsia said.
Stanwick, a finalist for the Tewaaraton Award as the nation’s best player, has been on fire in the playoffs. The junior attackman has 20 points in three tournaments games.
“Anyone who knows lacrosse would say that kid has special skills,” Starsia said. “He has great hands and great eyes — those are his physical skills. But his real skill is making everyone around him better. He lifts everybody.”
Mark Matthews, Denver’s leading scorer with 70 points, was held to one goal by an active zone defense. The Cavaliers made it tough for the Pioneers to gain momentum by winning all five faceoffs in the second quarter.
“A zone, without a doubt, frustrates offenses. Especially when you get a lead then sit back in the zone, that’s real frustrating,” Virginia defenseman Bray Malphrus said.