Virginia Outlasts Notre Dame in Another Down-to-the-Wire ACC Game


Virginia goalie Alex Rode looks to clear the ball up the field despite the diving effort of Notre Dame attackman Pat Kavanagh. Rode made his ninth save as time expired to preserve Virginia's 12-11 win.

Dox Aitken used a swim dodge to create separation and saw the Notre Dame defense was late to close out. He made the Fighting Irish pay with an overhand rocket that broke the game’s fifth tie and proved to be the game-winning goal in a 12-11 Virginia victory Saturday in South Bend. 

Aitken’s second goal of the game, which came with 2:28 remaining in regulation, punctuated yet another ACC classic — a back-and-forth affair in which neither team led by more than two goals after the first quarter.

A week after Cavaliers coach Lars Tiffany proclaimed “Dox is back,” the same could be said for his entire squad. Payton Cormier scored five goals, Ian Laviano registered a hat trick and Aitken finished with four points, as No. 7 Virginia improved to 6-2 (1-2 ACC) and picked up its first conference win of 2021.

“Just hammered the ball,” Virginia coach Lars Tiffany said of Aitken’s game-winner Saturday. “We saw this as soon as the North Carolina game was behind us — that week in practice, like, ‘Whoa, [No.] 6 is back.’ … We saw it again this week in practice.”

Given the ACC’s dominance so far this season — all five teams are ranked in the top 10 nationally — it feels like each win should count as two. It was the conference opener for No. 9 Notre Dame (4-1, 0-1)

Aitken’s first goal that pinged off the pipe on its way in opened the scoring for the Cavaliers, who built a 3-0 lead after the first quarter.

The Irish’s offense, however, exploded in the second quarter with seven goals. In his first start with Notre Dame, Bucknell graduate transfer attackman Will Yorke opened the quarter with three unanswered goals, including a snipe from the left wing on a man-up opportunity. 

Virginia overcame a 7-5 halftime deficit with a 3-0 run to open the third quarter and outscored the Irish 5-1 to take a 10-8 lead entering the fourth. Cormier, who entered the game with 22 goals through eight games, scored three of his five goals in the third frame. All of them were assisted. It was the sixth game in 2021 in which he’s registered at least a hat trick. 

The fourth quarter turned into the Eric Dobson show, as the 6-foot-4, 220-pound freshman midfielder who drew comparisons to Sergio Perkovic on the ESPNU broadcast twice pulled Notre Dame within one goal. 

Yorke collected the rebound off another Dobson shot to tie the game at 11 with 3:24 to play, but Aitken had the answer less than a minute later. The Irish repossessed the ball with 24 seconds remaining, but Alex Rode (nine saves) stopped a low shot by Yorke to seal the win.

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