05/30/2019 12:35 PM
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Kyle Kology heard all of the doubters in the preseason, and there were a lot of them.
"I know that there were a lot of people that were skeptical about our defense coming into the year," the Virginia sophomore defenseman said. "You have to remember, though, that we do get to go up against our offense every day in practice."
The Cavaliers' high-powered offensive unit can score with anyone, something it proved time and time again this spring, but when the 'Hoos were celebrating on Monday at Lincoln Financial Field after beating Yale for the national title, it was obvious that they wouldn't have reached the top of the college lacrosse mountain without its defensive backbone.
"It's pretty surreal," said Kology, a Leading Edge 2017 and Chatham alumnus in his second year as a starter for UVA. "I don't really think it's set in that we just won the national championship. It was just one of the most fun games that I've ever played in. The defense was flying around and putting the ball on the deck, (UVA goalie Alex) Rode was making saves, and it was just fun to be a part of it."
"I think it comes from Rode and his voice and the trust that we have in him," Kology continued. "Cade (Saustad) and Jared (Conners) had incredible games. The D-mids and (Logan) Greco were all making plays, and I think we won a lot of 1v1 matchups. We might have lost one or two in the Duke (semifinal), but against Yale, I think we won every single important matchup."
It's hard to argue with that point, especially considering the fact that the 'Hoos were the only team to hold the defending national champion Bulldogs to single-digit goals this year. Yale came into the game with the No. 2 scoring offense in the country at nearly 16 goals per game and walked out with barely more than half of that. Kology was at the forefront of it with a pair of caused turnovers and a ground ball as part of UVA's 15-caused turnover day.
"It was such a big game and I expected to be nervous, but seeing the guys around me fly around allowed me to calm myself and play with the guys around me," Kology said. "Yale has traditionally been such a great team and they're highly touted for their physicality, but nobody on our team was playing scared of the physicality. I don't know if last year we could have hung with teams like that in the third or fourth quarter, but after what we've been through, it wasn't anything new."
Virginia certainly earned the title of Cardiac Cavs this year. The 'Hoos, hardened by an always-difficult ACC schedule to go along with a rigorous slate, were 7-1 in one-goal games, including seven straight wins. They were an incredible 5-0 in overtime games, including three straight games in February and March and the double-OT thriller in the semis against Duke. When you can keep your poise in moments like that, big moments tend to not faze you much. They also helped Kology realize how good UVA could be this year.
"Maybe our first win against Notre Dame (13-11 on March 16) or the Syracuse game (15-14 in OT on March 2) when we had to come back is when I realized we could be special," Kology said. "We had those three OT games, and that can either be three wins or three losses very easily. Some people called it luck, but..."
Those people can now call Virginia "national champions."