Air Force junior Nick Hruby (above) scored four goals in the 11-10 upset of Duke.

Air Force's Flight Pattern and Lars Tiffany's Virginia Debut

Air Force claimed an eye-catching victory in a nonconference trip east, snagging a one-goal victory at Duke.


This is starting to be a pattern for the Falcons, whose victory in Durham last March drew attention to a team that ultimately rattled off 15 victories in a row before falling in the NCAA tournament at Notre Dame.

This time, Air Force checked a lot of boxes, both statistical (plenty of balance, opportunistic extra-man, solid goalie play) and intangible (poise as the Blue Devils lurked within a goal for much of the fourth quarter) as it closed out an 11-10 victory on Sunday.

“Our guys handled their business fairly well, particularly down the stretch in the fourth quarter,” Air Force coach Eric Seremet said. “We were sloppy like most teams would be in the first week of February, for sure. We’re trying to do what everybody else is doing and not have it be a surprise when a team like Air Force competes at a high level.”

At this point, it might not be anymore. 

Seremet points out his senior class is arguably the most successful in school history, with an ECAC championship in 2014 and a Southern Conference crown last year. The Falcons clearly will contend again in the SoCon as they chase their third NCAA bid in four years.

Although they lost Christopher Allen and his 31 goals to graduation last year, Air Force did bring back three 20-goal scorers in Nick Hruby, Andrew Tien and Chris Walsch. All three had multi-goal games at Duke, with Hruby scoring on all four of his shots.

"We’re trying to do what everybody else is doing and not have it be a surprise when a team like Air Force competes at a high level.” — Air Force coach Eric Seremet

There was also the matter of replacing goalie Doug Gouchoe, who turned in a 7.49 goals-against average last year. Freshman Paxton Boyer impressed in his debut, making eight saves in the second half.

“Think about it: A freshman, a Colorado kid, it’s his first career game against Duke and he has 14 saves and 10 goals allowed,” Seremet said. “I was pretty proud of him. I never felt like he was rattled at all. He’s a pretty quiet kid and I just look at certain parts of the game and he was very composed.”

Of course, it’s only one game. Yet it’s a hint that Air Force, even with its far-flung league schedule, has the ability to be more than a mere nuisance. The Falcons own what is probably the most impressive victory on the young season, and will look to add to it when they visit Denver on Saturday.

“We have to clean up our stickwork and we need to play with a little more energy that maybe we lacked in the early stages Sunday,” Seremet said. “Denver usually gets that out of us. Our guys like playing that game.”

Here in a hurry

The most analyzed coaching change after the 2016 season was Virginia’s decision to dismiss Hall of Famer Dom Starsia. The Cavaliers, who have not won an NCAA tournament game in the last four years, ultimately hired Brown’s Lars Tiffany to reinvigorate the program.

Tiffany led the Bears to their first Memorial Day weekend trip since 1994 last spring, and Saturday’s visit to Loyola is a symbolic start to a tenure Virginia hopes can be a worthy follow-up to the four national titles claimed during Starsia’s run.

“I can’t believe eight months have passed by this fast,” Tiffany said. “The first few months were a scramble with recruiting. Starting Aug. 29, which is the first day we came together as a team with practice and skill sessions, there was so much to do and so much to implement. With having more practice time than in the Ivy League, I think I assumed I would feel more prepared. I’m not sure I feel that way. I’m certainly excited, but I don’t know if you’re ever truly prepared.”

One of the Cavaliers’ biggest concerns is at goalie, where three-year starter Matt Barrett is suspended for the entire season. Junior Will Railey, who appeared in eight games last season, is a prominent contender for the job, but it is possible freshman Griffin Thompson gets a look.

But more fascinating than position battles for this year is the approach Virginia will take under its new coach. Tiffany’s success at Brown was tied to a throwback up-tempo style, something with the potential to translate well over the long haul in Charlottesville.

“I think you’ll see similarities — you’ll see a pattern, you’ll see a flow,” Tiffany said. “If you are a Brown lacrosse fan and you want to peek in, you will definitely see similarities. It won’t be identical, because we can’t re-create some spectacular players we had at Brown. It will feel very similar to what we did at Brown. The question mark is can we execute at the same high level as the last two years.”


Johns Hopkins midfielder Joel Tinney scored three goals and had two assists in the 15-8 win over Navy,

Hopkins’ welcome problem

Johns Hopkins’ injury issues last season were well-chronicled, and coach Dave Pietramala consistently brushed them aside as the Blue Jays finished 8-7. The lasting repercussions are a roster suddenly loaded with experience now that everyone is back.

Seven players scored in a 15-8 defeat of Navy on Tuesday, as the Blue Jays played five attackmen and three midfield units. By the end of the third quarter, Hopkins had used 27 players.

“We’re just trying to figure out who goes where,” Pietramala said. “I don’t know how long that’s going to take. Hopefully it will evolve. Maybe we’re going to find out that’s exactly who we are and that’s the way we’re going to need to play to be successful and we’re going to have to try to wear teams down as the weather gets a little bit warmer.”

What’s tricky is that Pietramala can’t be entirely sure how good the likes of Alex Concannon, Connor Reed and Drew Supinski are a month from now as they continue their comebacks. What was clear from Tuesday is the Blue Jays are predictably much more dynamic with midfielder Joel Tinney back from a year-long suspension.

The junior had three goals — including one on a hidden ball trick — and an assist in his first game since the 2015 final four.

“It’s been a long time coming,” Tinney said. “Last year was tough, but I was able to get through it with the support of my coaching staff, my teammates, the athletic department, the university. They supported me all along. Ever since the summer, it’s been about the 2017 Jays. This day’s been marked on our calendar for a couple months now.”

Good first impression

Chris Feifs has quite the overtime streak going.

The new Vermont coach won his first two games with the Catamounts in extra time last week, sweeping a southern swing to Furman and Mercer by identical 13-12 margins.  He came to Burlington from North Carolina, where he was the defensive coordinator for the national champion Tar Heels. They beat Maryland last Memorial Day in overtime for the title.

His next feat might be the first 3-0 start by a coach in Vermont lacrosse history. The Catamounts are off this weekend before meeting Holy Cross in their home opener on Feb. 18.

Get the best and latest from delivered weekly straight to your inbox: