It was quite a day for Matt Moore, competing in his backyard, setting a school record and, oh yes, winning a national championship.
Moore contributed four goals and an assist as Virginia beat defending champion Yale, 13-9, in the NCAA Division 1 lacrosse title game on Monday before 31,528 at Lincoln Financial Field.
It is the sixth title for Virginia and the first since 2011.
Moore, a sophomore from Garnet Valley, set the Virginia single-season scoring record with 89 points, eclipsing the previous mark of 86 set by Doug Knight in 1996.
For Moore, it didn’t get any better than winning a title in Philadelphia.
“It has been a dream of mine for a while now; I have come to a bunch of Eagle games and dreamed of this since I was kid,” Moore said. “I really still can’t believe it, this is awesome being here with my teammate and celebrating.”
Yale, which led,10-2, after the first quarter of its semifinal win over Penn State on Saturday, didn’t enjoy similar success in the opening 15 minutes of the final.
Virginia (17-3), a notorious slow starter, led, 2-1, after one quarter, with both goals coming from Moore.
That was not a good omen for Yale (15-4) because the first quarter has been the Bulldogs’ best. Entering the game, the Bulldogs had scored 79 first-quarter goals, the most of any quarter.
By halftime, the Cavaliers had extend the lead to 6-2.
Yale entered the game averaging 9.9 goals in the first half, so an expected quick start was stymied by Virginia’s defense and the performance of sophomore goaltender Alex Rode, who made several spectacular saves. Rode continued his stellar play in the final two quarters and was named the most outstanding player of the tournament.
In the title game, Rode had 13 saves after making 18 in the Virginia’s 13-12 double overtime semifinal win over Duke. He had a .608 save percentage in the two games.
Yale made things interesting by scoring the first two goals of the third quarter to cut Virginia’s lead to 6-4.
At that point, Virginia went into overdrive, scoring the next five goals. The fifth came unassisted from Moore, increasing the lead to 11-4 with 6 minutes, 23 seconds left in the third quarter.
From that point on, the Cavaliers were in full control.
Yale has the nation’s top faceoff man, TD Ierlan, who won 18-of-24 against Virginia. Knowing the Bulldogs had such an advantage, Virginia’s strategy was to possess the ball, often using much of the 80-second shot clock.
“We like to run, and we like to play fast, and they got a few saves on us, a few failed clears, and they’re possessing the ball as long as they were, it got very frustrating, and it wore on us,” Yale coach Andy Shay said.
Several players with local roots contributed to Virginia’s win: Dox Aitken (Haverford School) had two goals and three ground balls. Jeff Conner (Strath Haven) had one assist and two ground balls; Dave Smith (Shawnee) added two ground balls while seeing extensive time at defensive midfield and Justin Schwenk (Spring-Ford) took eight faceoffs.
Of little consolation to Yale is that the Bulldogs set an NCAA tournament record with 68 goals during their four games.
As for Moore, earning the school single-season scoring mark was the last thing on his mind.
“National championship over everything else,” he said.
Knowing that championship weekend would be in Philadelphia, Aitken said he and Moore, both big Eagles fans, would mention it during the season how special it would to come home and compete for a national title.