Dox Aitken can’t believe the situation he’s in. The Virginia midfielder will attempt to cap his junior season by winning the NCAA men’s lacrosse championship when the Cavaliers (16-3) meet defending -champion Yale (15-3) in the Division I title game Monday at Lincoln Financial Field.
The game could be played at any venue and it would be a special event for Aitken, among the top players in the nation, who has 42 goals and eight assists.
The fact that the championship is being staged at the Linc, brings an extra element to Aitken, who is from Villanova and attended the Haverford School.
“It means a lot,” Aitken said Saturday after a 13-12 double-overtime thriller over Duke in the first semifinal at the Linc. “I’ve been at this stadium probably over 20 times now, and all in the stands. I am a huge Eagles fan and I was fortunate enough to follow the Super Bowl LII run.”
He said the Eagles’ 41-33 win over the Patriots in the Super Bowl after the 2017 season is something he still gets chills thinking about.
“That was one of the greatest moments of my life,” he said.
Another came Saturday when he contributed three goals and an assist in the win that snapped an 11-game losing streak against Atlantic Coast Conference nemesis Duke.
“Just to be in this stadium and just be 20 minutes from my house and have a lot of support from friends and family, it is a dream come true,” he said.
Yale has the ability to ruin the dreams of the best teams. With all the pressure of winning a championship, Yale coach Andy Shay showed he can keep things light.
After his team’s 21-17 semifinal win over Penn State, Shay was asked what he knew about Virginia.
“I think it’s one of the original 13 colonies, right?” he said, eliciting laughter. “Thomas Jefferson designed the campus.”
Could Jefferson design a defense to stop Virginia? Shay admitted he didn’t know much about the Cavaliers and that he hadn’t scouted them because he didn’t want to look past Penn State.
Yale, which lost twice to Penn and another time to Villanova, all in games that went into overtime, beat Duke, 13-11, in last year’s championship at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough , Mass.
In the win over Penn State, Yale jumped to a 10-2 lead by the end of the first quarter.
The biggest task for Aitken and his teammates will be to stop 5-foot-11, 185-pound Yale freshman attack Matt Brandau, who had seven goals in the semifinal win. Brandau has 47 goals and 22 assists.
Yale also has the top (percentage-wise) faceoff man in the country in junior TD Ierlan. This season he has won 375 of 495 faceoffs (75.7 percent).
On the other hand, Yale must defend three players who have scored 40 or more goals. Besides Aitken, the others are Ian Laviano (50) and Matt Moore, a sophomore from Garnet Valley, who has 42. Laviano scored the game-winner against Duke.
Yale’s leading scorer is Matt Gaudet, who has 49 goals. In addition to Brandau, Yale’s other 40-goal scorer is Jackson Morrill (46).
With all the firepower on both teams, it should be a high-scoring game, one that should suit Aitken well. He has seen plenty of games at the Linc as a fan and certainly enjoyed his first Saturday as a player. He can’t wait for his second on Monday.