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No. 4 men’s lacrosse bounces back in an 18-11 win against Utah

The Cavaliers outpaced the Utes in a lopsided affair

<p>Redshirt freshman attackman Connor Shellenberger had a hat trick against the Utes.&nbsp;</p>

Redshirt freshman attackman Connor Shellenberger had a hat trick against the Utes. 

Following a heartbreaking home loss to No. 4 Duke in overtime, No. 3 Virginia men’s lacrosse continued its stretch in Charlottesville with an outing against non-conference foe Utah. A sloppy first quarter by the Cavaliers (10-3, 2-3 ACC) would make the game rather interesting, yet eventually the offense began to fire on all cylinders. Avoiding another loss on its home turf, Virginia responded in a big way with a 18-11 thumping of the Utes (3-6). 

In the first quarter, each team traded goals as Utah took a 4-2 lead over the Cavaliers with four minutes remaining, only to see that lead evaporate by the end of the period. Sophomore attackman Payton Cormier once again spurred on the offense with two goals — assisted by senior attackman Matt Moore and junior midfielder Xander Dickson. 

The Utes — who have played the majority of their games on the road this year — showed no signs of exhaustion in the first period of play. Virginia — likely still thinking about what could have been against Duke — seemed unprepared for the evident energy of Utah, a team who had only won six games across the past two seasons. 

Utah did not let their deficit last long in the second quarter, with two consecutive goals putting them ahead of the Cavaliers by a score of 6-5. However, in traditional Virginia fashion, the offensive showcase proved to be too much for an overmatched opponent. An 8-0 run over the second and third quarters catapulted Virginia to 11-5 lead — a comfortable margin that allowed Coach Lars Tiffany to give inexperienced players some time on the field. Five goal scorers contributed to the Cavalier run throughout the entire second quarter, as redshirt freshman attackman Connor Shellenberger and senior attackman Ian Laviano poured in two goals apiece. Notably enough, Utah did not score for a consecutive 20 minutes and 52 seconds from the second into the third quarters.

More of the same occurred in the third and fourth quarters, as the Cavaliers went on a 4-0 run in the last period to give themselves a commanding 18-8 lead. Shellenberger and sophomore midfielder Peter Garno led Virginia with two hat tricks each, while Dickson flashed with one goal and three assists. Senior long-stick midfielder Jared Conners dominated the defensive midfield, tallying 12 ground balls, one assist and two caused turnovers.

Junior faceoff specialist Petey LaSalla had another impressive showing as he went 20 for 26 from the X and tallied 11 ground balls. LaSalla has continued to indicate the pace of play in every game the Cavaliers have appeared in, as he possesses the unique ability to score at will and win nearly every faceoff. This marks the fourth game this season LaSalla has won more than 20 faceoffs — for reference, this feat has only been accomplished 12 times before by a Cavalier.

Most importantly, Moore made his way into the history books with his two assists, giving him the honor of being the fifth Cavalier to have 100 assists and 100 goals in his career. He now joins the company of legends — Kevin Pehlke, Steele Stanwick, Michael Kraus and Danny Glading — all former attackmen at Virginia. Moore — fighting for another national championship to add to his sterling resume — still has some time left before he hangs up the cleats after an incredible career in Charlottesville.

“I continue to be impressed by our entire team’s energy throughout games,” Tiffany said. “From the men on the field to the men off the field on the sideline. It’s been special in 2021 how much the entire team stays energized and focused and loud during these games. I’m really grateful for the men on this team and how intense we are for those two hours.”

The Cavaliers’ effort and energy was unmatched by Utah later in the game, and Tiffany benefited from the depth of his squad once again. Virginia’s offense — rivaling that of Duke and North Carolina — continues to make a strong case for the premier unit in the country.

Next up for the Cavaliers is Syracuse, who made an early ACC statement by rolling over Virginia 20-10 at the Carrier Dome. The Orange have struggled mightily in recent games, however, having just dropped a lopsided affair to North Carolina at home. Faceoff in Charlottesville is set for 12 p.m. Saturday, and the game will be televised on ESPNU.