Final Four a new experience for Wahoos

PHILADELPHIA, Pa. (CBS19 SPORTS) -- Lars Tiffany can vividly remember the last time the final weekend of the NCAA men's lacrosse season was played at Lincoln Financial Field. It was in 2016 -- when Tiffany's Brown team was one of the final four teams in the bracket.

Now Tiffany is at the Final Four as a head coach for a second time -- with Virginia, who will face Duke at 12 p.m. Saturday at Lincoln Financial Field. The team arrived in Philadelphia on Thursday, and practiced at the stadium Friday morning.

After practice, Tiffany told the story of taking video on his phone as Brown's team bus got a police escort to the stadium for the semifinals in 2016. Tiffany used that as an example of one of the lessons he took from his first Final Four experience -- don't try to do too much.

So the Cavaliers are spending this weekend trying to find a balance between making the most of their first time in the NCAA semifinals, and remembering there is still work to be done.

“I don’t think there’s a guy that’s not smiling every second right now. This is what we dreamed about since we were younger, and it’s great to be here," UVA junior midfielder Jared Conners said after Friday's practice. "It was pretty surreal, walking out into that stadium for the first time. It was a pretty crazy feeling, and it’s definitely good to have that out of the system before the actual game.”

“Everyone was kind of awestruck. You’re standing at midfield, you’re looking up, spinning around and taking it all in," said UVA sophomore defenseman Kyle Kology. "But again, guys are trying to take a few moments, take it in, as Coach Tiffany says, and then lock it right back in and get ready to play some lacrosse.”

Heading into last month's ACC championship game against Notre Dame, the Wahoos mentioned several times that the when in that same spot the previous spring, the team was too focused on reaching that point. The Cavaliers tried to take a more business-like approach into this year's title game -- and beat the Irish 10-4.

Saturday's semifinal will be the UVA program's first Final Four appearance since 2011. Tiffany talked Friday about trying to point to that experience in those back-to-back ACC title games -- along with Virginia's slow start in last week's NCAA quarterfinal win against Maryland -- as a reminder for his team.

“Some of the way we played in that first half, we weren’t as comfortable, we weren’t in the moment like we normally have. We threw some balls away," Tiffany said. "And I wondered, we just haven’t been in a do-or-die situation enough."

"Essentially, can we do something that’s impossible. Can we recreate experience, without having done the experience," the head coach added. "We haven’t been to the Final Four in eight years, but can we manipulate other events and say, it’s just like the Final Four."

UVA players said their approach heading into that ACC title game last month has been the team's mindset all season. So they don't expect to get caught up in the moment in Saturday's semifinals.

“I think it’s been the mentality all year," said Conners. "Even though none of us have been here, the idea is that we’re not satisfied yet, until we finish the job.”

“This year, we’re not happy to be anywhere," said senior defenseman Logan Greco. "We’ve earned the right to play in the Final Four, and now we want to earn the right to play in the finals. It was a learning experience for a young team like us. But now we’re a more experienced team, and I think that’s definitely going to help us.”