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Defending champ Yale expects tough time against Virginia in NCAA men's lacrosse final

The Virginia Cavaliers celebrate their win against the

The Virginia Cavaliers celebrate their win against the Duke Blue Devils in double overtime of the 2019 NCAA Division I Men's Lacrosse Championship Semifinals at Lincoln Financial Field on May 25, 2019 in Philadelphia. Credit: Getty Images/Mitchell Leff

PHILADELPHIA — He coaches in the Ivy League, so of course Yale coach Andy Shay was academic when asked what he knew about Virginia.

“I think that’s one of the original 13 colonies,” Shay said. “Thomas Jefferson designed the campus. I don’t know anything other than that, to be honest with you. We have a lot of work to do.”

No. 3 Yale (15-3) and No. 4 Virginia (16-3) will meet for the first time since 1991 at 1 p.m. Monday at Lincoln Financial Field. Virginia is seeking its sixth NCAA title and first since 2011. Yale, which won it all last year, is seeking its second title.

Shay, whose Bulldogs defeated Penn State, 21-17, in the semifinals, was right. Virginia is one of the 13 original colonies. And he does have a lot of work to do.

For one thing, faceoff specialist Petey LaSalla, a freshman from Miller Place, certainly will have a bigger impact on the game than Thomas Jefferson will.

When Ian Laviano (Cold Spring Harbor) scored the winning goal in Virginia’s 13-12 semifinal victory over Duke, it made the Cavs 5-0 in overtime this season. That’s because they usually have the ball. LaSalla has won 212 of 351 faceoffs (.604) this season.

“He has been just a stud since the fall,” UVA senior Ryan Conrad said. “It doesn’t seem like anything really fazes him. He goes down, wins it and gets off the field. We knew he was going to be a special player, and he’s proven it.”

LaSalla will face off against Yale’s TD Ierlan. Ierlan, who is from the upstate town of Victor, set the Division I record for faceoff percentage (.791) in 2018 for Albany and then transferred to Yale.

“It would probably be a good argument that [Ierlan] is the best in the history of the game of college lacrosse,” Virginia coach Lars Tiffany said. “So this will certainly be a big obstacle for our entire team and Petey himself.”

When Ierlan wins the draw, Yale’s incredibly deep midfield, which features Jack Tigh (Garden City) and John Daniggelis (Chaminade) on the first unit and Luke Eschbach (Smithtown East) and Lucas Cotler (Syosset) on the second, takes over.

Ierlan won 28 of the 39 faceoffs in the semifinal win over Penn State but seemed aware that it might not be as easy against LaSalla.

“His reaction time is very good,” Ierlan said. “He’s very well schooled. Long Island guy. He’s solid. We’re going to have our work cut out for us.”

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