The Hokies came into Saturday night’s showdown with #12 Florida State at 10-0 and #10 in the country. The previous Thursday, Hokie Lax handled Tennessee 15-7 to move to 2-0 in the SELC Northwest Division. The Hokies stormed out of the gate early to take the lead 9-0 and cruised the rest of the way against the Volunteers. At 10-0 the Hokies now faced their toughest test of the season so far against the Noles at FSU.
Virginia Tech 11, Florida State 8
The Florida State Seminoles came in at 7-3 and motivated to bounce back after a tough 11-10 defeat at the hands of Liberty on Friday night. The Seminoles have been strong throughout the season with a tough win against #8 Colorado State on the road and also a strong performance against #3 defending champion Colorado.
This night was about more than just lacrosse. It was a very emotional night for the Hokies as they were dedicating the game to their fallen teammate Alex Hable. Hable passed away last summer in a tragic diving accident.
The entire Virginia Tech lacrosse family held a memorial service right before the game for Hable, with family, friends, and members of his fraternity coming out to support. The Hokies had to wipe the tears aside and get ready to play the game.
The Hokies scored first as Senior captain Joe Rittenhouse finished a great pass from Kyle Mancini. Florida State answered strong with 3 consecutive goals to take the lead 3-1. The Seminoles offense was lead by Senior All-American attackman Will Goodman.
The Noles were answered with a top corner rip by Alex Clough to cut the lead to 3-2 at the end of the first quarter. Conrad Unterkofler then got the second quarter going for the Hokies with a nice lefty finish on the crease off of a great look by Timmy Nordbrook.
With the score tied 3-3, the Hokies offense exploded. After multiple slashes to the head resulted in 4 minutes of penalties, the Hokies’ extra man offense took advantage. Virginia Tech reeled off five straight goals to take the lead 8-3. The Seminoles tallied one more late in the half to make the score at halftime 8-4.
In the second half, both teams slowed down. The Seminoles scored the first goal of the third quarter, and then both teams stalled a bit. The Hokies defense held strong through the third quarter with the Seminoles controlling most of the possession. Senior captain Brett Gallahan led the charge for the defense, mostly holding Will Goodman in check and coming away with several key takeaways. After a back and forth third quarter, the Hokies entered the final stanza with a 9-6 advantage.
The Seminoles cut the lead to 9-7 with a goal on man-up. Ryan Palompo then made a huge play with a great dodge and dish to Joe Rittenhouse on the crease to put the Hokies up 10-7. The Hokies went on to win a tough SELC battle by a score of 11-8.
Alex Clough exploded for five goals to lead the Hokies offense, while Bogdan Dragacevac helped the Hokies dominate time of possession by going 14-20 from the faceoff X.
Next up for the Hokies is a huge match-up with rival #15 Liberty on senior night. A lot rides on this game, as the winner will claim the top seed in the Northwest Division of the SELC and strengthen their resume.
Virginia Tech 15, Liberty 7
The Hokies came into Friday night’s showdown with #14 Liberty at 11-0 and #9 in the country. This was by far the biggest game of the season as both teams have gone unscathed through SELC play and were looking for a quality resume win. It was also senior night for the Hokies and they wanted to send their nine seniors out on a strong note against arch-rival Liberty.
Everything about this night was perfect for the Hokies. It was a beautiful night, a great crowd at Thompson Field, and the Hokies turned in by far their best performance of the season.
From the opening whistle, the Hokies played with passion and executed the game plan. Sophomore midfielder Ryan Palompo started the scoring for the Hokies with a nifty lefty bounce shot to the bottom corner.
Senior attackman Alex Clough then ripped two more goals top shelf for the Hokies to extend the lead to 3-0. Conrad Unterkofler then threaded a pass into Joe Rittenhouse who stashed it in the back of the cage to put the Hokies up 4-0.
Liberty finally got on the board by a good dodge and finish by Bryce Mrakovich. Unterkofler then dodged down the alley and stuck one top left corner to score the fifth goal for the Hokies. The Hokies led 5-2 after one quarter.
The Hokies kept on rolling as Long-stick middie Thomas Westfall scooped up the ground ball on the faceoff and took it all the way for a goal. Westfall was dominant on the wing vacuuming up 6 ground balls on the day.
The Hokies then rallied off 3 more goals to take a commanding lead 9-3. Bryce Mrakovich had the answer for the Flames with a beautiful behind the back goal on the crease. Joe Rittenhouse one-upped him however, with a sweet between the legs finish on the crease (certainly SportsCenter Top 10 worthy) to put the Hokies up 10-4.
The Hokies did not let off the gas and sprinted into halftime with another 3 straight goals to extend the lead to 13-4.
There were not as many fireworks in the second half as the Hokies held a healthy 9-goal lead.
The teams went back and forth in the third quarter and the Hokies entered the final stanza with a 15-6 lead. In the fourth quarter the Hokies’ defense remained strong behind Bryan Cooper and cruised to a 15-7 victory. Cooper shut the door on the Flames making 13 saves in the win.
Bogdan Dragacevac again was clutch at the faceoff X, winning 15-24, and allowing the Hokies to control the tempo of the game.
On the defensive end, Brett Gallahan led the charge, holding last year’s SELC offensive player of the year Ryan Miller to just two assists.
The offense was lead by very strong efforts by Joe Rittenhouse and Conrad Unterkofler. Rittenhouse finished off his senior night in style, being unguardable on the crease tallying 4 goals and 1 assist. Unterkofler dominated with his ability to distribute scoring 1 goal and adding a career high 4 assists.
With this win, the Hokies would move to 12-0 with just a game against West Virginia left on Sunday. They also earned a #1 seed in next week’s SELC Tournament, where the winner gets an automatic ticket to California for the MCLA National Tournament.
Virginia Tech, West Virginia
One more opponent stood before the 12-0 Hokies and their undefeated season: the West Virginia Mountaineers. Before the game, Coach Matt Schroeder reminded his team that three years ago WVU upset the Hokies, and caused them to fall to a #14 seed in the MCLA tournament. The Hokies were motivated to not have a letdown against the Mountaineers who had already been eliminated from tournament contention with a record of 3-7.
As the opening whistle sounded, rain was falling in Blacksburg and the field was in rough shape. The Hokies did not make excuses as they sprinted out to a 5-0 lead after the first quarter, capped off by a buzzer-beating goal from midfield by Sophomore Jackson Sole.
The Hokies continued solid play in the second quarter and went into the half with a 10-0 lead. Sophomore midfielder Wian Coetzer had a strong first half tallying one-goal and adding two assists to lead the Hokie offense.
The defense stood strong and was able to keep WVU from scoring their first goal until the third quarter.
In the second half, the Hokies showed their strong depth as they continued to extend their lead. Junior attackman Matt Henderson led all scorers with two goals and two assists, all being recorded in the second half. Sophomores Alex Handzel and Bobby Ross also scored in the second half to keep the offense going.
The Hokies were able to cruise to the finish line and come away with a 16-2 victory. The captains dumped the water cooler on Coach Matt Schroeder as the Hokies celebrated their first undefeated regular season.
Looking Forward: SELC Time
This weekend the 13-0 Hokies are set to battle Florida in the first round of the SELC Tournament in Johns Creek, GA. This is a rematch of last year’s SELC semifinal where the Hokies won 10-4. The Hokies are 3 games in 3 days away from an automatic bid to the MCLA National Tournament in Irvine, California.
Coming into this weekend, the Hokies are beaming with confidence, after finishing the first undefeated season in team history. The hope is that if the Hokies can finish this weekend with a second SELC Championship in a row and earn a quality seed in the MCLA Tournament. This will be no easy task as if the Hokies can reach the second round they will play South Carolina, and a potential championship game could be against either Liberty, Florida State, or Georgia Tech, all teams ranked in the top 20.
With the craziness that has been going on in the MCLA this year, the Hokies know that if they are able to earn a bid to nationals, they will have a good chance to make a run. After being so close last year with a 6-OT loss to UCSB in the national quarterfinals, the Hokies are determined to reach the Final Four this year.