No. 2 Virginia men’s lacrosse opened their postseason run with an emphatic 17-8 victory over Richmond. A lightning delay in between the first and second quarters, as well as rainy conditions throughout, did little to slow down the Cavalier (12-3, 4-2 ACC) offense, as they ran away from the Spiders (11-5, 4-1 Atlantic Ten) with ease.
Virginia found the back of the net quickly to start, scoring two goals in the first three minutes of play to jump out to an early lead. Richmond countered towards the middle of the quarter, but another two quick goals before the horn sounded gave the Cavaliers a 5-2 lead. Six different Cavaliers had either an assist or a goal in the first quarter, showing the depth of the team’s offensive attack.
The Cavalier offense was unfazed by the incredibly difficult weather conditions throughout the game. As the teams were warming up before the second quarter, an announcement came that there was going to be a 30-minute weather delay due to lightning.
While the fans in attendance might have bemoaned the sheeting rain, Virginia came onto the field noticeably fired up. Virginia outscored the Spiders by three goals yet again in the second quarter, and all but the last goal came unassisted. While the rain made passing the ball much more difficult, the scoring still seemed to come naturally as the teams headed into the locker rooms yet again, this time with the Cavaliers holding a 10-4 lead.
Head Coach Lars Tiffany admired his team’s ability to stay on track even in the rainy conditions.
“We’re really spoiled here at the University of Virginia with incredible facilities, and we get to play at a lot of other great venues as well,” Tiffany said. “But we don’t get to play in the slop very often, and I really appreciate how much our men enjoyed it and embraced it and really had fun with this today with the conditions, and we didn’t let it slow us down at all.”
The Cavaliers were able to slow down the Richmond offense, however, which had scored 15 or more goals in each of its last four games before this one, including two conference tournament games. Virginia held the Spiders to only two goals per quarter, for a total of eight, the same count as the last time these two teams matched up earlier this season.
The second half, while not quite as dominant as the first, still was held in full control by Virginia. The Cavaliers outscored Richmond in all four quarters, with senior attacker Peyton Cormier’s personal 3-0 run being the nail in the coffin for the Spiders.
The Virginia defense was helped by a big day from sophomore goalie Matthew Nunes. After the rain, the largest puddles of water on the field were in front of the two nets, right where Nunes had to stand, and he handled the adversity well, totaling nine saves in his second career NCAA Tournament victory.
It was a day for the Virginia record books on the offensive side of the ball. The second of senior attacker Xander Dickson’s goals broke the all-time Virginia single-season goals record, which was previously set by Doug Knight in 1996. Cormier also made history, tying the school record for goals scored in a single NCAA Tournament game with six. Cormier did not score until there were just over six minutes left in the first half, but the Richmond defense had no answer for him in the second half.
The Cavaliers were also able to limit Richmond’s possession thanks to a dominant performance by graduate student faceoff specialist Petey LaSalla. LaSalla went 18 for 27 on faceoffs, despite the slick nature of the ball in the rain, and was able to distribute to Virginia’s offensive players.
Virginia had a complete performance in its opener, and it proved once again that it has the pieces to win a championship. The Cavaliers will look to take the next step Saturday, when they will face No. 7 Georgetown in the NCAA quarterfinals. These two teams played in an unscored scrimmage before the season, so there is some familiarity, but both teams have come a long way since then.
A spot in Championship Weekend is on the line when the two teams meet in Albany, N.Y. Opening faceoff will be at either noon or 2:30 p.m. and will be broadcast on ESPNU.