No. 1 men’s lacrosse begins title defense with strong win over No. 14 Loyola

A stellar defensive effort combined with a strong first half offensively helped the Cavaliers to a win

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Redshirt freshman Payton Cormier made his long-awaited Virginia debut against Loyola, netting a hat-trick. 

Courtesy Virginia Sports

Virginia men’s lacrosse opened their 2020 campaign with a 12-9 win over No. 14 Loyola. The No. 1 Cavaliers (1-0, 0-0 ACC) built a lead in the first half and did enough in the second half to secure the win over the Greyhounds (0-1, 0-0 Patriot).

Junior attacker Ian Laviano opened the season’s scoring for Virginia with 13:01 left in the first period by notching a goal off a feed from senior attacker Michael Kraus — giving Kraus at least one point in all of his 50 career games. 

Loyola would answer two minutes later on a man-up opportunity when senior midfielder Logan Devereaux beat junior goalkeeper Alex Rode. But the Cavaliers would close the quarter by scoring three unanswered points combined with superb goalkeeping from Rode — finishing the first 15 minutes with 10 saves. 

Redshirt freshman attacker Payton Cormier scored the first two of those goals only nine seconds apart, right before sophomore midfielder Petey LaSalla man quickly won the face-off.  Junior attacker Matt Moore would close the scoring in the period with 3:16 left.

After the Greyhounds capitalized on another man-up opportunity with freshman midfielder Adam Poitras scoring, Virginia reeled off five consecutive goals — Moore scoring two of them. Loyola, however, would add a score in the closing seconds of the half, as junior attacker Kevin Lindley snuck one past Rode — making the score 9-3.

Despite the Greyhounds recording two more shots in the first half than the Cavaliers, Virginia was able to separate through exceptional play from Rode — posting 13 saves to only 5 from Loyola’s Sam Shafer — and a 26-13 advantage in ground balls.

Loyola flipped the script in the third quarter — cutting the deficit by two and dominating possession. Following two goals from Virginia’s Laviano and Cormier to make the score 11-4, the Greyhounds strung together four consecutive scores — the fourth coming in the fourth quarter.

The third period saw Loyola win all seven faceoffs, as well as gain 17 to 9 shot advantage in the quarter. The Greyhounds were also able to collect 11 of the 19 ground balls in the period — bucking the trend from the first half.

After Loyola junior attacker Aidan Olmstead cut the Cavalier lead to three with 10:44 left in the game, Virginia senior midfielder and 2019 All-American Dox Aitken notched his first goal of the season to extend the lead and effectively put an end to the possibility of a Loyola comeback.

From there, Virginia was able to bleed the clock out with several long possessions and never allowed the Greyhounds to regain any momentum. With 42 seconds remaining, Loyola junior midfielder Dan Wigley added a final tally to make the score 12-9, but the Greyhounds wouldn’t come any closer.

“How do we deal with playing with a lead?” Virginia Coach Lars Tiffany said. “I don't know if we passed that test with flying colors. I'd probably give us a C. Good enough to win, we're happy about that. But we can do a better job in that situation."

On the game, Rode matched his career-high with 19 saves as he continually thwarted good attacking chances for Loyola.

“Seeing an extension of what he did last May, and we've seen that in practice and throughout the scrimmages, and it was really wonderful to see that come to fruition in the first game of 2020,” Tiffany said of Rode.

Other leaders on the day for Virginia included Moore, who finished with three goals and two assists, and Cormier, who also recorded a hat-trick. For faceoffs, LaSalla won 10 of his 20 matchups.

With the win, the Cavaliers were able to avenge one of their three losses from last year’s national championship run — a 17-9 loss to Loyola in Baltimore — as well as start the season with a quality win against a top-15 team.

Virginia will return to Klockner Stadium to face Lehigh Saturday at 1 p.m. — the second of five home games to start the season. The game will be televised on ACC Network Extra.

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