No. 2 Virginia men’s lacrosse saw their 2023 campaign come to a close Saturday in heartbreaking fashion after an overtime game winner from No. 3 Notre Dame. It was an incredibly close game throughout, with neither team able to garner more than a two-goal lead, but in their third matchup of the season, it was the Fighting Irish (13-2, 4-2 ACC) who came out on top, defeating the Cavaliers (13-4, 4-2 ACC) 13-12 in overtime.
After Notre Dame scored the first two goals of the game, the Cavaliers settled into their offense, scoring three unanswered in a run that was capped off by a goal from junior attacker Connor Shellenberger. Shellenberger would go on to finish the game with three goals and three assists, picking right back up from Virginia’s quarterfinal game against Georgetown as the team’s offensive leader.
The Fighting Irish led at the end of the first quarter by a score of 4-3, but Shellenberger would score once again to tie the game less than a minute into the second period. Shellenberger would go on to score only once more in this game, but his ability to serve as the leader of the offense continued to shine, as he delivered timely assists throughout the remainder of the game.
The Cavaliers struggled to find an answer for junior midfielder Eric Dobson, who led all scorers with four goals in the afternoon. Dobson found the back of the net with just under two minutes to play in the second quarter to tie the game at six heading into halftime, and then opened the scoring in the third quarter as well.
On Virginia’s side, it was much more of a team effort when it came to scoring the ball. Nine different Cavaliers found the back of the net, with scoring in the third quarter in particular coming from all different directions. After Notre Dame took its first lead since the score was 2-1, three different Virginia players scored in the quarter to help the team cling to a one-goal lead heading into the fourth.
The Cavaliers led for much of the fourth quarter, eventually making the score 11-9 with a goal from graduate student faceoff specialist Petey LaSalla with 8:54 remaining. After a six-minute dead spell, the Fighting Irish found a way to fight back, scoring two quick goals to even the scoreline.
With the game tied at 11 goals apiece, and with less than a minute to go, Shellenberger stood behind the Notre Dame goal. In the midst of multiple Fighting Irish defenders, he was able to find graduate student midfielder Thomas McConvey. McConvey was already in the shooting motion before the ball made it to him, and he dropped it into the net for the go-ahead goal with 52 seconds left on the clock.
However, on Notre Dame’s next possession, graduate student midfielder Brian Tevlin raced down the field where he found an open teammate. Senior attacker Jake Taylor received the ball and fired a shot after bouncing off a Cavalier defender to equalize the game at 12 apiece and ultimately send it into overtime.
The Fighting Irish won the faceoff at the beginning of overtime and immediately called timeout. On the next play, Tevlin took the ball right to the goal all by himself and scored the game winner, sending Notre Dame into the national title game.
Ultimately, the Fighting Irish ended the day with more shots, ground balls and faceoffs won than the Cavaliers. They also finished with 10 turnovers to Virginia’s 15. In a game that was so close throughout, Notre Dame was able to create more quality possessions for themselves than the Cavaliers, and at the right time. The Fighting Irish won the last three faceoffs of the game, and that proved to be the difference.
Keeping Virginia in the game, however, was the stellar play of sophomore goalie Matthew Nunes, who finished with 17 saves on the day. With his efforts, Nunes moved into the number one spot on the Cavaliers’ all time single season saves list.
Virginia fell just shy of its eighth NCAA title, but with another highly ranked recruiting class coming in next year, they will certainly be poised to make another run. Notre Dame will move on to the national championship game to face No. 1 Duke, a game that will be streamed on Monday at 1 p.m. on ESPN.