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No. 2 Virginia men’s lacrosse hangs on to beat High Point

A 16-save effort from freshman goalie Matthew Nunes helped the Cavaliers to a 11-10 victory

<p>Freshman goalkeeper Matthew Nunes came up big for the Cavaliers, recording 16 saves along with a game-saver with seconds remaining.</p>

Freshman goalkeeper Matthew Nunes came up big for the Cavaliers, recording 16 saves along with a game-saver with seconds remaining.

After a dominant 21-11 win against Air Force, the No. 2 Virginia men’s lacrosse team looked to continue their winning streak against High Point. The Cavaliers (2-0, 0-0 ACC) managed to squeak past High Point (1-2, 0-0 SoCon) 11-10 after a game-winning save from freshman goalie Matthew Nunes with 20 seconds left in the game. 

The game began with a faceoff win from senior faceoff specialist Petey Lasalla, who won 15 of his 21 faceoffs on the day, giving the Cavaliers key possessions in a low-scoring thriller. 

High Point got on the board first when graduate student attackman Asher Nolting found senior attackman Michael Ippolito on the far side to take the first lead of the day. Nolting found himself guarded by junior defender Cade Saustad. The two preseason All-Americans produced an exciting matchup throughout the course of the game, but it seemed Nolting got the upper hand, finishing with two goals and three assists. 

Minutes later, junior attackman Payton Cormier responded for the Cavaliers from a pass from freshman attackman Griffin Schutz. Schutz then scored an unassisted goal to make the score 2-1. During the first quarter, Nunes recorded seven of his 16 saves to keep Virginia in the game. 

Despite the impressive defensive effort, the Panthers tied the game 2-2 with four seconds left after a poor turnover from the Cavaliers. The goal came from sophomore attackman Brayden Mayea, who caught the ball right in front of the goal for Nolting’s second assist of the day. 

The Cavaliers started off strong to start the second quarter. Graduate student attackman Matt Moore scored his first goal of the day from a skip pass from sophomore attackman Connor Shellenberger. Moore proceeded to add a second goal to give the Cavaliers a 4-2 lead. Moore finished the day with three goals. 

High Point quickly answered back with two goals. The first from sophomore midfielder Tommy Meehan and the second from sophomore midfielder Nick Rizzo to tie the game 4-4. Shellenberger then found the back of the net to give the lead back to Virginia with a little over a minute in the second quarter. On the next possession, Shellenberger found junior attackman Xander Dickson with 14 seconds left in the half — the assist was one of Shellenberger's five on the day, tying his career high. 

The Panthers struck first in the third quarter, courtesy of graduate student midfielder Koby Russel to cut the Cavalier lead to 6-5. Ippolito then scored his second goal of the day to tie the game at six. 

Next, the Cavaliers went on a four-goal run, beginning with junior midfielder Peter Garno — who scored a high bouncing goal from another Shellenberger assist to make the lead 7-6. Shellenberger continued to distribute the ball, finding senior midfielder Jack Simmons for his first goal of the day. 

Moore then completed his hat trick with a high sweeping dodge, and to complete the run, Garno scored his second goal of the day to make the score 10-6. Nolting quickly responded to break the scoring drought for High Point to cut the lead to three.

To begin the fourth quarter, senior long stick midfielder Trey Smith fired back a goal after picking up a loose ground ball on the opposite side of the field. After another fast break transition opportunity, Mayea buried a goal to cut the lead to one from a Nolting assist. 

After a tough start to the fourth quarter for the Cavaliers, Dickson responded with an unassisted goal that ended up serving as the game winner for the Cavaliers final goal of the game. However, High Point was not done as Nolting scored his second goal to complete a five-point day with four minutes remaining to cut the lead to 11-10. 

In the final three minutes of play, Nunes made two key saves that allowed for Virginia to hold onto their one goal lead. His final save of the day was extremely close up, but Nunes deflected the ball off of his helmet to give the Cavaliers the victory. 

“​​We just didn’t play at the pace we needed to, but thank goodness for Matt Nunes,” Coach Lars Tiffany said. “Eleven saves at halftime and then obviously a huge one at the very end.” 

Virginia will return to action against Towson for their first road game of the season Saturday.