PHILADELPHIA — They call the guys who take the draws in men’s lacrosse “FOGOs.” It stands for “Face Off, Get Off.” It means after the specialist takes the draw, he’s supposed to race to the sideline and let another midfielder come in.
Don’t tell Petey LaSalla that.
Twice in Virginia’s physical 13-9 victory over Yale in the NCAA championship game Monday, the freshman, who is from Miller Place and played for Rocky Point, went from “FOGO” to “FO goal-scorer.”
Facing off against one of the best FOGOs in NCAA history, LaSalla scooped the ground ball off his own faceoff, ran down the field and scored to give Virginia a four-goal lead midway through the second quarter. He did it again in the third, firing in what proved to be the winning goal as Virginia took a 10-4 lead.
Thanks to an opportunistic performance by LaSalla, a suffocating performance by Alex Rode and a record-breaking performance by sophomore Matt Moore, the third-seeded Cavaliers (17-3) dispatched defending NCAA champion Yale (15-4) in front of 31,528 fans at Lincoln Financial Field, winning their sixth title and first since 2011.
“When we recruited Petey, we saw him not allowed to leave the field at Rocky Point High School,” said Virginia coach Lars Tiffany, who coached at Stony Brook from 2005-06. “He was a faceoff guy who had to play offense, so he had offensive skills. We were excited to bring him to Charlottesville, and fortunately he said yes, because he can create offense.”
No. 5 Yale’s TD Ierlan, a finalist for the Tewaaraton Award, lacrosse’s version of the Heisman, actually got the better of LaSalla in most matchups, winning 18 of 24 draws. But Virginia’s defense forced 15 turnovers and converted 23 of 28 clear attempts, including every attempt before the fourth quarter.
“It’s so dramatic because when you go against a TD Ierlan team, you assume you’re going to play a lot of defense, but to actually score off the draw, it’s such a huge emotional boost,” Tiffany said. “We know he can score that goal. We just didn’t know if he was going to earn possessions. There weren’t too many, but to be able to do it against TD Ierlan was a big deal for us.”
Tiffany said UVA will look to expand LaSalla’s role in future seasons and keep him on the field after the draw more often.
Rode, who was named the tournament’s most outstanding player, made 13 saves, many of them dazzling, and was resting on the sideline by the time Yale scored its final goal.
Moore scored four goals and set a Virginia single-season record with 84 points. Michael Kraus added three goals and Ian Laviano, of Cold Spring Harbor, had one.
Yale opened the scoring two minutes in with the first of two goals by Jack Tigh (Chaminade). The teams traded goals until Kraus scored to give UVA the lead for good at 3-2 early in the second quarter.
One game after scoring 10 times in the first quarter, Yale trailed 6-2 at halftime. It was the first time the Bulldogs were held to single digits in the first half all season.
Yale still managed to set the record for most goals in the NCAA Tournament with 68. The previous record of 66 was set by Virginia in 2006.
John Daniggelis (Smithtown East) added one goal for Yale and ended his career with back-to-back appearances in the NCAA final, something he could not have envisioned when he committed.
“Back in the day, they were huge underdogs and they didn’t care,” Daniggelis said. “I knew that’s what I wanted. Obviously this year, we weren’t underdogs. But it was nice to see the transition, and the seniors did a great job of leaving this program in a better place.”