In its first-ever matchup with Michigan, No. 1 Virginia was able to defend Klöckner Stadium and extend its home winning streak to ten straight games with a 17-13 victory Saturday. The Cavaliers (1-0, 0-0 ACC) never trailed against a tough Wolverines (0-1, 0-0 Big Ten) squad that refused to go away until the final buzzer.
It was a solid start for Coach Lar’s Tiffany’s team, who has high hopes for a national championship this season. Virginia was able to push itself and showcase their depth against a good Wolverine team, who is one of four Big Ten opponents the Cavaliers will face this year in the regular season.
Virginia showcased a well-balanced attack in this game and saw major contributions from senior Payton Cormier, redshirt junior Connor Shellenberger, and graduate student Thomas McConvey. Cormier finished the day with five goals, while Shellenberger and McConvey each recorded three.
McConvey opened the scoring on an assist from Cormier just 20 seconds into the game. With the goal, McConvey extended his point streak to 53 games in a row, leading the nation. At the end of the first quarter, the Cavaliers led 6-4.
In the second quarter, each team alternated goals to score three each, and the halftime score remained a two-point lead for Virginia, who was ahead 9-7. Cormier scored two in the second quarter, while graduate student Jeff Conner scored the third.
The Wolverines closed the gap to just one after a huge third quarter for them, but Shellenberger added two more goals and an assist in the quarter to make sure that the Cavaliers stayed just ahead.
While the offense managed to stay just ahead of Michigan for the entire 60 minutes, it was sophomore goalie Matthew Nunes who stepped up in a big way to keep the Wolverines at bay. Nunes ended his day with 15 saves, just one shy of matching his career high. However, Nunes was called for his first career penalty in the fourth quarter with the Wolverines only trailing by one, forcing Virginia to bring in senior goalie David Roselle.
Roselle was called upon in a difficult spot with Michigan having a man-up opportunity to tie the game, but he managed to make the biggest save of the game and hold the lead for the Cavaliers.
After the Roselle save, Virginia was able to slam the door shut on any chance of a Wolverine comeback, as the Cavaliers outscored Michigan 4-1 during the remainder of the game. Tiffany was appreciative of the fight the Wolverines put up and the experience it will provide going forward.
“The value of playing a better schedule early is hopefully going to pay dividends later in the season,” Tiffany said. “We didn’t really have a lot of close games last year either – we won or lost by a lot … this was a good test by an up-and-coming, improving Michigan opponent. I couldn’t be more thrilled with the guts that we showed out there.”
While the offensive onslaught of Shellenberger, Cormier and McConvey was expected, how Nunes played in the season opener was perhaps the most promising aspect of the game’s result. The sophomore goalie will play a key role in determining how far Virginia men’s lacrosse can go in 2023.
Next up is another home game this Saturday against No. 15 Harvard. That matchup is scheduled to begin at 4 p.m. and will be streamed on ACC Network Extra.