Those prospects might have seemed unlikely a little more than two weeks ago, with the Cavaliers mired in a six-game losing streak, their longest in nearly 50 years, and the Terps ranked No. 1 nationally. But they were driven home Friday evening, when unranked Virginia bounced top-seeded Maryland in the ACC tournament semifinals 13-6 at Kenan Stadium.
Junior attackman Mark Cockerton, the nation's top goal scorer, led the way for Virginia (7-7) with four goals, giving him 47 on the season. Senior attackman Matt White added three goals and three assists, and Nick O'Reilly and Rob Emery had two goals apiece as the Cavaliers avenged a 9-7 regular-season loss to the Terps and won for the 12th time in their past 15 meetings.
Senior attackman Owen Blye paced the No. 6 Terps (9-3) with three goals, and junior midfielder Mike Chanenchuk had a goal and two assists. But otherwise Maryland continued its recent struggles on offense, a span when it has managed to score in double figures just once in six outings.
"There's always concern," Maryland coach John Tillman said of the offensive drought. "Regardless of what it is, we're going to critique it. … That's obviously something we have to look at this week. We certainly feel like we have enough parts. It's a matter of putting it together."
The Terps host Colgate in their regular-season finale next Saturday before awaiting an NCAA tournament at-large berth. Virginia, meanwhile, needs to beat North Carolina -- an 18-17 winner over Duke -- in Sunday's ACC title game to edge above the .500 mark and become eligible for an at-large berth. The ACC doesn't get an automatic qualifier because the NCAA mandates a minimum of six lacrosse schools in a league, and the ACC has only four at present.
"It was a must-win," O'Reilly said. "We knew what was on the line."
Said Cockerton: "It was do or die. Sunday's going to be the same thing. We want to keep the season going. We don't want this [tournament] to be our last game."
Cockerton got the only first-quarter goal for either team just 59 seconds into the game and added three more in the second quarter as the Cavaliers bolted to a 5-2 halftime lead.
"Virginia's attack has been jelling a lot more," said goaltender Niko Amato, who had all 10 of Maryland's saves before being relieved with five minutes remaining. "They were just patient and found the right looks."
Virginia outshot Maryland (38-25), won the ground ball battle (32-27) and committed fewer turnovers (18-11). Cavaliers goalie Rhody Heller came up with six saves.
Despite its deficit, Maryland made a run in the third quarter and nearly leveled the match.
Blye and White swapped unassisted goals early in the quarter before the Terps took advantage of a strange penalty situation to score twice and draw within a goal.
Maryland senior midfielder John Haus drove to the goal and was slashed by Virginia defenseman Scott McWilliams at the 4:25 mark. As the dust settled, Haus and Virginia midfielder Jay Harbeson got into a shoving match, and both received unsportsmanlike conduct penalties.
The upshot was that the Cavaliers had to play a man down for two minutes, because referee Tom Sutton ruled all three penalties unreleasable.
"I've never seen a foul like that where it wasn't released," Virginia coach Dom Starsia said. "The ref said it was because Scott McWilliams' penalty was at the same time. It's hard to believe they all happened at the same time. But I wasn't happy to be facing off with one guy on the faceoff circle. We could have gotten that ground ball and stopped that."
Instead, Chanenchuk fed Jake Bernhardt and Blye for extraman goals to narrow the Virginia lead to 6-5 with 3:25 left in the quarter.
Harbeson would atone for his misdeed less than two minutes later. He won a ground ball off a turnover and cleared into the Maryland end despite being checked to the ground and then fouled by Maryland defender Goran Murray. Harbeson's pass found a waiting O'Reilly, who scored from point-blank range to make it 7-5. On the ensuing possession, O'Reilly set up White to make it 8-5 with 1:51 left in the period.
When Charlie Streep, O'Reilly and Emery scored in quick succession in the fourth quarter to boost Virginia's lead to 11-5, it was essentially over.
"I think we felt good at that point," Tillman said after the extraman scores. "I really liked our energy when we came out in the third quarter. … But Virginia got those two goals and took the momentum away.
"When your back's to the wall, there is that motivation. You look at a guy like Matt White, who has a three-and-three day. He's staring at his last game. It seems this year that the team that is hungriest has had that edge. It doesn't mean you're going to win. But it gives you that urgency."