The No. 3 Virginia men’s lacrosse team won its third road game of the season when they defeated No. 10 North Carolina Friday by a score of 19-12. The Cavaliers (8-2, 2-1 ACC) earned their fifth straight victory over the Tar Heels (7-4, 1-2 ACC).
Virginia was without junior attacker Connor Shellenberger — who was out with a lower extremity injury — for the first time in his career. However, the Cavaliers were still able to have their way against the third-best scoring defense in the country. Senior attacker Payton Cormier was unstoppable for Virginia, totaling five goals all in the first half. Four other Cavaliers also scored multiple goals in this game, and 19 goals are the most scored by a North Carolina opponent this season.
The Tar Heels opened the scoring on a man-up opportunity by graduate student midfielder Griffin Gallagher. The lead for the home team was short-lived, though, as Virginia would go on to score six goals in a row to close out the quarter.
North Carolina clawed back to within four with three goals in the second quarter, but every time the Tar Heels would get even moderately close, Virginia was able to push past the threat and extend its lead. North Carolina would never get within striking distance of the Cavaliers’ lead for the rest of the game, and Virginia was able to cruise to an important ACC victory.
The Cavaliers kept their scoring consistent and were able to sustain momentum throughout the game, despite the rainy conditions. Virginia outscored the Tar Heels in each of the first three quarters before putting its reserves in during the final period. This marked a difference from last week’s loss to Duke, in which the Cavaliers were outscored in each of the first three quarters and could not respond to runs from the Blue Devils.
One of the key points of emphasis for the Cavaliers in this game was ground balls. In their loss last week, Virginia allowed Duke to pick up 42 ground balls. The Cavaliers limited the Tar Heels’ ground balls to just 28. This made a significant difference and Coach Lars Tiffany was pleased with his team’s effort.
“We were chopping. We were running through ground balls, highlighted by Grayson Sallade’s ground ball early in the game. We were going to slide, dive, fight — whatever we could,” Tiffany said. “We have a great history of being tenacious off the ground and we certainly demonstrated that today to give us those extra opportunities.”
Graduate student faceoff specialist Petey LaSalla played a large role in Virginia’s ground ball game, picking up nine of his own and going 17-33 at the faceoff X. It was LaSalla’s eighth time this season finishing above .500 in faceoffs, and he is going to have to continue to perform at a high level for this team to make a run.
Next up, the Cavaliers will look for revenge against No. 1 Duke. Virginia has won all three of its road games by five goals or more this season and will look to build on that when they visit the Blue Devils Saturday. The game is scheduled to begin at 12 p.m. and will be broadcast on the ACC Network.