Virginia men’s lacrosse returned to winning ways Saturday with a 12-8 win against ACC opponent Notre Dame. The Cavaliers (7-1, 3-0 ACC) raced off to a 6-1 start to propel themselves over the Fighting Irish (2-4, 0-1 ACC) on a windy day at Klöckner Stadium.
Virginia got off to a quick start, which was helped by senior faceoff-specialist Petey LaSalla winning four of the first six faceoffs of the game. Junior attacker Payton Cormier opened the scoring for the Cavaliers with a shot that deflected in off of a defender.
Two minutes later, Notre Dame answered back on a man-up opportunity to tie the score 1-1. The Cavaliers then proceeded to go on a 5-0 run. Senior midfielder Jeff Conner got the run started for the Cavaliers, assisting junior attacker Xander Dickson who was cutting towards goal.
Sophomore attacker Connor Shellenberger then scored a solo goal to put Virginia up 3-1. Shellenberger led the Cavaliers on the day with three goals and two assists which extended his streak of scoring at least five points to 12 games. Graduate student attacker Matt Moore assisted Conner with a high bouncing goal. Moore finished the day with two assists.
“If you try to go rogue against the system of Notre Dame’s defense it gets frustrating really quickly,” Coach Lars Tiffany said.
Freshman attacker Griffin Schutz netted back-to-back unassisted goals to extend the lead to 6-1. In between Schutz’s goals, the Fighting Irish had a six-versus-four man-up after three Virginia penalties. The Cavaliers’ defense stood strong and freshman goalie Matthew Nunes made multiple saves to deny Notre Dame any goals. Nunes finished the day with 12 saves and only conceded five goals before being pulled in the fourth quarter.
The half ended 6-2 with a Fighting Irish goal in the final minute which allowed them to build some momentum. Notre Dame opened the second half with a quick goal by junior attacker Pat Kavanagh to cut the Cavaliers’ lead to three. Shellenberger responded, finding a cutting Dickson to rebuild their lead.
“[Dickson’s] constantly moving. Everytime I look around he’s in a different place. So credit to him for not just getting himself open, but freeing up the rest of our offense as well,” said Shellenberger.
Shellenberger then beat his man from behind the goal twice to add two goals for Virginia to bring the lead to 9-3. To close out the third quarter the Fighting Irish had a fast paced transition goal in an attempt to spark a comeback.
In the fourth quarter, junior attackman Will Cory added to the scoring with a goal assisted by Moore. Cormier then got his second goal of the day, this time assisted by Shellenberger before Notre Dame answered back to cut the lead to 11-5.
On a Cavalier clearance, Notre Dame junior goalie Liam Entenemann was caught out of position, which allowed for graduate student midfielder Evan Zinn to score from just inside the midfield line to make the score 12-5. In the final moments of the game the Fighting Irish netted three quick goals which was not enough to comeback from the large deficit.
“This was big for our defense,” Coach Lars Tiffany said after conceding 23 goals last week against Maryland. "This was a big step... [it was] really important to us to take that big step forward and make sure last week doesn't define us. It happened, it was a reality but it's not who we are."
The Cavaliers will return to action on the road next week against Richmond Saturday, April 2nd. The game will air on NBC Sports Washington and be streamed on ESPN+.