The Hokies knew this was their first step to punching their ticket to California and that the Gators would certainly give them their best effort.
Virginia Tech 9, Florida 1
The first quarter was very slow as the Hokies looked a little bit sluggish. It may have been due to the 7-hour bus ride, but the Hokies were not there to make excuses. Alex Clough recorded the only Hokie goal in the first quarter and the Gators knotted it up at 1 late in the first. The first quarter ended with a score of 1-1.
The second quarter was much better for the Hokies as they were able to get into more of a rhythm on offense. Alex Clough ripped another one top shelf to get the Hokies going in the second, followed by a nice lefty shot by Ryan Palompo to make the score 3-1. Conrad Unterkofler and Ian Quinn rounded off the first half with two more goals for the Hokies to make the score 5-1 at the break.
On a day where the offense struggled for the Hokies, the defense was stellar. The Hokies defense completely shut down the Gators holding them to only 7 shots in the game, while Bryan Cooper made 6 saves on the day.
The Hokies offense continued to struggle and not show much urgency with a 5-1 lead. Joe Rittenhouse got on the board for the Hokies early in the third quarter to make it 6-1, but that was followed by another 9 minutes of scoreless play by both teams.
Alex Clough tallied to open the 4th quarter and complete his hat-trick as the Hokies gradually started to build a comfortable lead. The Hokies scored two more and cruised to a 9-1 victory.
While Clough did record a hat-trick on the day, the real story was the defense. Long-stick middie was a vacuum as usual for the Hokies and scooped up 6 ground balls to help the Hokies control tempo. Westfall has really stepped up for the Hokies this year and earned 1st Team All-Conference Honors because of his strong play.
All three starting defenseman Brett Gallahan, Andrew Baird, and Steve Dailey also dominated their match-ups, with the only goal given up a result of a back-door cut and ball-watching by the Hokies.
Despite the loss, face-off man Aaron Silcott showed why he has been an All-Conference performer for the past two years as he won 8-14 at the X to keep the Gators competitive.
It was not the prettiest performance for the Hokies, but it got the job done, and they were already looking forward to their next game against Georgia as the final whistle sounded. Georgia advanced to the SELC Semifinals with a 7-6 win over 1-seed South Carolina and riding a lot of momentum coming into the match-up with the Hokies.
Virginia Tech 13, Georgia 3
Virginia Tech came into Saturday’s semifinal contest with Georgia determined to play better after a sluggish effort on Friday. Georgia had been a solid team all season and came in with a record of 11-2 with only losses coming to Georgia Tech and Liberty.
The Hokies thought that if they were able to come out of the gate fast that they could put away the Bulldogs early.
Alex Clough got the scoring started for the Hokies with a top-corner rip. Tim Nordbrook was next with a sweet dodge from the wing and a slick finish on the crease to put the Hokies up 2-0. The Hokies then took advantage of a Georgia penalty and Sam Bateman finished an easy dunk on the crease off of a nice dish from Jack Keller to make it 3-0.
The Bulldogs got on the board late in the first on a nice back-door cut and finish but Kyle Mancini answered right back for the Hokies to make it 4-1 at the end of the first.
Bogdan Dragacevac then executed a nice pinch and pop and snuck in a bounce shot on the run to make it 5-1 early in the second quarter. Dragacevac was solid as usual for the Hokies winning 12-19 face-offs on the game.
At this point the Hokies started to run away with the game as the offense found its stride. Joe Rittenhouse finished on the crease for the Hokies to make it 6-1, followed by a nice topside dodge and top-corner rip from Ian Quinn to make it 7-1. The Hokies went into halftime with a commanding 8-2 advantage.
In the second half, the Hokies immediately picked up where they left off. Joe Rittenhouse again found open space on the crease and cashed in off of a nice dish from Kyle Mancini to make it 9-2.
The Hokies kept rolling along and held the lead 11-2 after the third quarter. Wian Coetzer and Bobby Ross got on the board in the fourth quarter for the Hokies and they cruised to a 13-3 victory.
The offensive performance was much better for the Hokies in this game, and the defense again held strong. Bryan Cooper made 8 saves on 10 shots to lead the Hokies defense while Kyle Mancini recorded 2 goals and 2 assists to lead the offense in the victory.
This was a critical victory for the Hokies as they moved into the SELC Championship game, just one game away from punching a ticket to California.
The Hokies then sat back and relaxed to watch an exciting battle between Georgia Tech and Liberty to see who they would meet in the SELC Championship game.
Virginia Tech 10, Georgia Tech 4
Sunday’s SELC Championship matched up two undefeated top 10 teams in the MCLA. Georgia Tech came into the game with a victory over NC State on Friday 9-5 and a tough victory over Liberty 9-7 on Saturday. The Virginia Tech Hokies did not struggle too much in the first two rounds of the SELC Tournament and were able to beat Florida by a score of 9-1 and Georgia 13-3.
Coming into Sunday’s matchup, the Hokies were ranked #9 in the MCLA National poll with a record of 15-0 while Georgia Tech was ranked #6 in the MCLA poll with a record of 16-0. The matchup was also a rematch of last year’s first round game of the SELC Tournament, where the Yellow Jackets pushed Virginia Tech right to the brink of elimination before the Hokies were able to escape with a 9-7 win.
There was certainly a lot on the line in Sunday’s game besides just an SELC Championship; the winner would also have a guaranteed ticket to the MCLA National Tournament in Irvine, California, and would likely land a top-8 seed. The loser would have to anxiously wait for Selection Sunday to see whether they are in the field as an at-large or not.
Both teams came out in the first quarter with strong defensive stops and limited scoring opportunities. Whenever the Hokies needed an offensive spark over the weekend it came from midfielder Conrad Unterkofler. With both offenses stalled, Unterkofler jumped in front of a Georgia Tech pass and took it the length of the field to score and put the Hokies up 1-0.
Georgia Tech answered with a nice skip pass up top and a nifty shot by midfielder Ben Mertz. Midfielder Tim Nordbrook answered right back for the Hokies with a rip from outside off of a nice assist by Ian Quinn. The Hokies ended the first quarter with a 2-1 lead.
Georgia Tech started the second quarter with a man advantage but the Hokies man-down defense held strong and got a big save from Bryan Cooper to weather the storm. The Hokies answered with a great methodical possession controlling the ball and continually peppering shots at Georgia Tech goalie Matthew Sommerfeldt.
The Hokies were finally to break down the Jackets defense as Conrad Unterkofler rolled back to his left to bounce one top shelf to put the Hokies up 3-1.
Georgia Tech’s Holland Frost then did his best Dwight Howard impression backing down the Virginia Tech defense and ripping a shot past Cooper to pull the Jackets within one goal at 3-2.
Long-stick midfielder Thomas Westfall continued his great wing play snagging a ground ball and hitting Joe Rittenhouse on the crease for an easy dip and dunk to put the Hokies up 4-2. The defenses were strong for the remainder of the half and the Hokies led 4-2 after the first 30 minutes.
With a really tight game at the half, both teams knew a fast start to the third quarter was essential. Thomas Westfall again was able to vacuum up the first ground ball of the second half and the Hokies were ready to capitalize. Midfielder Ryan Palompo took advantage of a short-stick match-up on an invert from behind the cage and ripped one past Sommerfeldt to put the Hokies up 5-2.
The Jackets then took advantage of a quick whistle on a Hokies turnover as Freshman attackman Adrian Franzone was able to finish on the fast break. The Jackets kept the momentum going as Chris Obrien hit Franzone on the crease for a goal to make it 5-4.
From this moment, the Hokies turned it on and gradually took over the game with great defense and ball control. Conrad Unterkofler was again the catalyst with a great dish to Kyle Mancini who ripped a jump shot top-left by Sommerfeldt to make it 6-4.
Sophomore midfielder Jackson Sole then sparked the Hokies with a nice takeaway during a faceoff scrum and drew a slashing penalty. With the ball loose in front of the cage, the Jackets were unable to scoop it up and face-off man Bogdan Dragacevac picked up the loose ball and put it in the back of the net to put the Hokies up 7-4.
Dragacevac definitely deserved the goal after a valiant effort at the faceoff X going 12-17 on the day.
After this goal, the Hokies had command of the game, as their 6-on-6 defense had been solid all tournament. A couple more stops and a few empty net goals and the Hokies were once again rushing the field to celebrate a 10-4 victory.
Goalie Matthew Sommerfeldt was very strong in cage for the Jackets, keeping them in reach for most of the game with 10 saves. Adrian Franzone led the Georgia Tech offense with 2 goals and 1 assist.
Conrad Unterkofler led the way for the Hokies offense tallying a hat-trick to go along with two assists. Bryan Cooper was a wall in cage making 11 saves in the victory. Conrad’s performance earned him Offensive MVP of the tournament while Cooper took home the Defensive MVP of the tournament for the second straight season.
The Hokies now have a week to recover and focus on schoolwork before the MCLA National Tournament on May 11. The Hokies are happy with the 16-0 regular season, but have much bigger goals ahead of them in California.