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No. 2 Virginia men’s lacrosse downs No. 11 North Carolina 15-11

The Cavalier defense allowed only one goal in the second half, propelling them to victory

<p>Virginia sophomore attackman Connor Shellenberger led the Cavaliers to victory, scoring four goals to go along with three assists.</p>

Virginia sophomore attackman Connor Shellenberger led the Cavaliers to victory, scoring four goals to go along with three assists.

On Thursday night in Chapel Hill, Virginia lacrosse faced off against North Carolina for the first time since last year’s NCAA Tournament semifinal clash. The Cavaliers (6-0, 2-0 ACC) once again came out on top against the Tar Heels (5-2, 0-1 ACC). After being down 10-9 at the end of the first half, Virginia went on a 6-1 run in the second half to earn the victory. 

Freshman attack Griffin Schutz opened the scoring for the Cavaliers for his eighth goal of the season. Returning from a three-game injury-related absence, senior midfielder Jeff Conner quickly added to the scoring to get Virginia off to a 2-0 lead.  

North Carolina then responded with a five-goal run. With junior defender Cade Saustad out due to a lower extremity injury, other players needed to step up to defend graduate student attack Chris Gray, the ACC’s top goal scorer in 2021. Gray contributed to the Tar Heels first two goals with one assist and one goal. North Carolina scored a man-up goal as well to get off to a 5-2 lead. On the day, the Virginia defense limited Gray to just one goal which was a season low for Gray. 

The Cavaliers came back with a five-goal run of their own. After a huge ground ball from sophomore defender Cole Kastner and a forced turnover by graduate student midfielder Jack Peele, junior attack Payton Cormier found sophomore attackman Connor Shellenberger for a step-down shot and goal. After beating his defender, Schutz assisted Cormier to tie the game 5-5. 

With seconds winding down on the shot clock, graduate student attack Matt Moore scored a low bouncing goal to give Virginia back the lead. Moore quickly added another goal which allowed him to move up to eighth in Virginia history on the all-time goals list, passing Steele Stanwick’s mark of 126 goals. Additionally, Moore went on to finish the day with three goals and two assists to move up to fourth on the Virginia all-time points list. 

North Carolina ended the Cavalier run to make the game 7-6. Sophomore attack Patrick Mcintosh scored his first goal of the day right in front of the goal from a Shellenberger assist to give the Cavaliers a two-goal lead. 

The Tar Heels scored two quick goals to tie the score 8-8. Shellenberger continued to find teammates, this time assisting junior attack Xander Dickson to give the Cavaliers a 9-8 lead. On the ensuing faceoff, junior faceoff specialist Andrew Tyeryar scored for the Tar Heels to tie the game once again. With 33 seconds left in the half, North Carolina scored with two men up for a 10-9 lead. 

Virginia opened the second half with a 5-0 run in the third quarter. Moore scored first, followed by a solo goal from Shellenberger in which he ran through his defender’s stick, demonstrating his raw strength by breaking it. Shellenberger finished the day with seven points (4 goals, 3 assists). His third assist of the day was to Dickson on a cross-field pass to extend the run to three goals.

After freshman goalie Matthew Nunes intercepted a pass on a Tar Heel clear, Cormier scored on an inside roll for a 13-10 lead. Cormier then scored again to complete his hat-trick. 

After missing 14 straight shots as a team, North Carolina scored its only goal of the second half. The Cavalier defense did not allow a single player to score more than two goals. Additionally, Nunes picked up four huge saves in the fourth quarter to prevent any comeback. Shellenberger then scored the final goal of the game to make the score 15-11 for their first ACC road victory. 

Virginia will return to action Saturday, March 19 against No.1 Mayland (5-0, 0-0 Big Ten) at Audi Field in Washington D.C. It will be a rematch of the 2021 National Championship game. The game is set to begin at 3 p.m. on Big Ten Network. 

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