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No. 6 men’s lacrosse downs No. 3 North Carolina 18-16 in Chapel Hill

The Cavaliers continue their early April dominance by upsetting the Tar Heels in a shootout

<p>Two of Virginia's key attackmen — senior Matt Moore and sophomore Payton Cormier — combined for 10 points against the Tar Heels.&nbsp;</p>

Two of Virginia's key attackmen — senior Matt Moore and sophomore Payton Cormier — combined for 10 points against the Tar Heels. 

Following a 18-10 victory at home over No. 15 Richmond, No. 6 Virginia encountered a familiar foe Saturday afternoon in No. 3 North Carolina. Having dropped a home game to the Tar Heels (8-2, 1-2 ACC) earlier in the season, the Cavaliers (9-2, 2-2 ACC) looked to rebound with a resounding win on the road. North Carolina — playing in its second consecutive ACC game after a heartbreaking loss against No. 1 Duke — would ultimately drop another crucial match-up, with the Cavaliers pulling away late and winning by a score of 18-16.

The Tar Heels would strike early in the first quarter, leading Virginia 3-1 in only the first three minutes of the affair. However, in a period which saw 12 total goals, the Cavaliers responded to take a 7-5 advantage on the legs of the offense. Junior midfielder Jeff Conner and sophomore attackman Payton Cormier posted two goals each in a wild and shot-laden quarter. 

With three lead changes, three ties and 30 combined shots, the Cavaliers and Tar Heels combined to showcase their offensive firepower, something that has been a staple of both programs throughout this season. 

After the early frenzy, things settled down completely as the Tar Heels came back to even the score at 7-7. The momentum that the Cavaliers had carried into the second quarter stalled, and the Tar Heels capitalized on fewer opportunities to turn the tides in their favor. Graduate transfer midfielder Connor McCarthy tore apart Virginia in the first half — posting two goals and another one that would follow shortly after the start of the third quarter. 

The trend of lead changes continued after the break, with the Cavaliers answering the call by pouring in four straight goals to make it 13-10 at the end of the third. On the shoulders of senior attackman Ian Laviano —  who tallied two goals — and senior attackman Matt Moore —  who dished out three assists — the Cavaliers were able to enter the fourth quarter with a solid three-goal lead.

Virginia never looked back in the last period, maintaining a comfortable lead up until two North Carolina goals in the last 40 seconds. As for the offense, five different players notched a goal for the Cavaliers in the final frame. 

North Carolina senior attackman Chris Gray — who currently leads the nation in points scored — was held to only three points in a quiet showing. After a tough loss earlier in the year, the Cavaliers clearly came to play in an ACC game with massive ranking and NCAA Tournament ramifications. 

“Today's offensive explosion is due to the unselfishness of our offense, which starts with No. 5, Matt Moore, playing more and more unselfish and being a better facilitator for offense,” Coach Lars Tiffany said.

Moore ended the game with eight points and posted a whopping six assists and two goals. He is now only two assists away from 100 for his career, a statistic that would put him in the 100 goals and 100 assists club. Only six other Cavaliers have accomplished such a feat during their time in Charlottesville.

Junior faceoff specialist Petey LaSalla also shined at the X by winning 26 draws, the second most of all-time in a single game by a Cavalier. Also an offensive threat, LaSalla scored one goal and tallied an assist as he continued to display his versatility on both of the sides of the ball. The Cavaliers’ X-factor in the Long Island native helped the team pull away after winning 11 of 12 faceoffs in the fourth quarter.

“The real key though is having the ball as much as we did and that starts with Petey LaSalla [at the faceoff X],” Tiffany said. “He continues time and time again to prove that not only is he an elite possession faceoff man, but also one of the most dangerous offensive threats in the nation. We saw it again today, with a goal and an assist in the fourth quarter that allowed us to pull away.” 

The road only gets tougher for the Cavaliers, as they now play host to No. 1 Duke in Charlottesville Thursday night. Despite a recent loss to No. 4 Notre Dame, the Blue Devils will be fired up and ready to go against a team that they have had plenty of success against in the past decade. Virginia will have to contain the dynamic freshman attackman Brennan O’Neill and arguably the best player in the country — graduate attackman Michael Sowers — in order to leave with a win. Opening face-off at Klöckner Stadium is set for 7 p.m. and the game will be broadcast live on the ACC Network.