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No. 3 Virginia men’s lacrosse drops ACC opener to No. 10 Syracuse

The Cavaliers were bombarded by a potent Orange attack as they suffered their first defeat of the season, 20-10

<p>Virginia legends in senior attackman Matt Moore and senior midfielder Dox Aitken struggled against the Orange, combining for zero goals and just one assist.&nbsp;</p>

Virginia legends in senior attackman Matt Moore and senior midfielder Dox Aitken struggled against the Orange, combining for zero goals and just one assist. 

No. 3 Virginia opened up ACC play with a 20-10 loss to No. 10 Syracuse at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse, N.Y. The Cavaliers (3-1, 0-1 ACC) struggled to find any flow on offense, while the Orange (1-1, 1-0 ACC) rebounded from a 17-11 loss at home against rival Army to overwhelm the Virginia defense. In the 37th meeting between the two teams, Virginia was unable to continue its undefeated 2021 campaign. Prior to Saturday evening’s game, the all-time series record was tied 18-18, as well as the all-time goals at 466-466.

From the opening whistle, Syracuse was able to open with a quick 2-0 lead with goals from junior midfielder Lucas Quinn and sophomore attackman Chase Scanlan. The Cavaliers rebounded with a 4-0 run, paced by goals from senior attackman Ian Laviano, redshirt freshman attackman Connor Shellenberger, sophomore attackman Payton Cormier and senior attackman Charlie Bertrand. Both teams traded goals to end the first quarter with a 5-4 Virginia lead, as Bertrand netted his second of the contest. 

The Orange were able to regain the lead in the second quarter behind two goals from junior attackman Owen Seebold. Cormier and Laviano both notched their second goals of the game to keep things competitive, but Syracuse ultimately took a 9-7 lead at the break.

Coming out of the locker room, Syracuse was able to build on its lead with an 11-3 run in the second half. The Orange’s stars were able to fill up the stat sheet, with senior attackman Stephen Rehfuss tallying three goals and three assists and freshman attackman Owen Hiltz adding another three goals and two assists. 

Arguably the top midfield group in the country, Syracuse’s midfield unit could not be contained and combined for 12 points.  Junior midfielder Brendan Curry had three goals and four assists, along with three goals from sophomore midfielder Tucker Dordevic and two goals from junior midfielder Jamie Trimboli.

Virginia sophomore defender Scott Bower was able to score his first career goal in the third quarter, but was not enough to provide the Cavaliers with a much-needed jolt on offense. Laviano ended the day with a hat-trick, and both Cormier and Shellenberger added two goals and an assist.

The Orange also controlled the faceoff-X, something that Virginia junior midfielder Petey LaSalla rarely struggles with. Syracuse finished winning 66.7 percent of the faceoffs, while going 11 of 15 in the second half, ending all hopes of a Virginia comeback.

“[Syracuse] played like a team that was trying to avenge something and give Coach Desko tremendous credit,” Coach Lars Tiffany said post-game on the Orange’s efforts after a humiliating season-opening defeat to Army. “[Desko] got that team to bounce back in great fashion.”

Virginia also welcomed back senior goalie Alex Rode, the 2019 Final Four Most Outstanding Player, who had missed the previous two games. 

“After the couple of weeks off, it was really an amazing opportunity to get back out there and being with my friends again playing lacrosse,” Rode said. “I wish it had went differently, but I’m very fortunate to be a part of a great team who had played [well] the past two weeks.”

As Virginia continues its 2021 season, it will be of utmost importance to rebound, similarly to how Syracuse was able to come off of its Army loss and change its fortunes Saturday evening. The ACC currently has all of its teams ranked in the top 10, and there is still plenty of lacrosse to be played.

“You’re going to win some, you’re going to lose some,” Bertrand said. “Obviously you never like to be on the losing end, especially in the fashion that we did tonight, but I think what’s great about this is that we have a game on Wednesday, so we can come back and rebound from this right away and crawl out of this hole together.”

The Cavaliers look to rebound on March 3 against visiting No. 15 High Point. Virginia took down the Panthers in February of last year, in an 18-15 high-scoring affair. Faceoff at Klockner Stadium is set for 3 p.m. and the game will be televised on the ACC Network.