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No. 4 men's lacrosse dominates Drexel 14-4 for fifth consecutive victory

The Cavaliers’ defense shut down the Dragons, holding them to the second-lowest output of any opponent in the Tiffany era

<p>Junior midfielder Griffin Schutz maneuvers around a Drexel defender.</p>

Junior midfielder Griffin Schutz maneuvers around a Drexel defender.

With the band providing the soundtrack to a beautiful Saturday matchup, No. 4 Virginia (8-1, 0-0 ACC) faced Drexel (3-5, 0-1 CAA) at Klöckner Stadium for the Cavaliers’ One Love game, a day organized in support of the One Love Foundation, which promotes healthy relationships. Fans from the previous women’s lacrosse game lingered as more fans began to fill the stadium for the men's game. They all enjoyed a dominant 14-4 Cavalier victory.

The Virginia defense smothered the Dragons almost from the opening faceoff. Sophomore defenseman John Schroter, making his return from injury after a three-game absence, and junior defenseman Griffin Kology caused four turnovers apiece, contributing to the Cavalier’s 18 total forced turnovers for the day.

In the first five minutes, graduate attackman Payton Cormier scored two goals. His first came from good passing, which afforded him some space to shoot. For the second he unloaded an underhand shot and was congratulated by the band’s playing soon after. 

Drexel responded minutes later with two of their own to tie the game. However, Cormier scored two more — one a dodge from the wing and another assisted by freshman attackman McCabe Millon. Junior midfielder Griffin Schutz closed the first quarter with a goal of his own, giving the Cavaliers a 5-2 advantage.

Opening up the second quarter with aggressive defense, graduate midfielder Chase Yager caused a turnover, followed by another caused turnover by junior defenseman Ben Wayer. Junior attackman Thomas Mencke put one in the back of the net from afar for his third goal of the season.

Threading the needle, graduate attackman Connor Shellenberger passed to Cormier, who scored his fifth of the day. Drexel scored again, but 20 seconds later junior midfielder Noah Chizmar scored his first goal of the season off an assist from Shellenberger. A while later, the same cadence occurred, Drexel scoring again with a response from the Cavaliers — this time from Schutz.

After some back-and-forth, Millon fed the ball to graduate defenseman Mitchell Whalen, who scored a rousing goal. Schutz ended the quarter with a left-handed goal, sending Virginia into halftime up 11-4.

Shellenberger started the third quarter with a bang as he scored 17 seconds in, assisted by Wayer. Despite the hot start, the game then slowed down, Virginia shutting out Drexel in the second half and scoring just three goals. The Cavaliers and Dragons spent most of the third quarter battling back and forth, interrupted by a Chizmar goal and Cormier’s sixth goal of the game — tallying his eighth career six-goal performance.

Recognizing that the game was effectively over, Virginia and Drexel subbed in new goalies for the final quarter, sophomore Kyle Morris stepping in for junior Matthew Nunes for the Cavaliers. Nunes had an incredible day, making 10 saves and stopping 71.4 percent of shots. The fourth quarter was scoreless thanks to multiple caused turnovers and Morris’s four saves.

At the dot, graduate faceoff specialists Thomas Colucci and Matthew DeSouza collectively went above 50 percent, Colucci going 5-12 and DeSouza 6-9. When asked about his defense, Coach Lars Tiffany revealed the secret to Virginia’s success.

“What we did really well was our on-ball contact,” Tiffany said. “And we were able to not only neutralize the dodger for Drexel but force him to roll into a slide, and we took advantage of those opportunities for those double teams.”

Senior defenseman Mike Prestipino had two ground balls and one caused turnover. Before the season started, the defense has been subject to much speculation after losing key veterans, but after Saturday’s showing and others, it seems like the defense is finding its rhythm. During the postgame, Wayer gave insight into how the defense is learning and improving each game.

“We go over, in the locker room after every game, our strengths and weaknesses,” Wayer said. “And for a couple of games this year one of our weaknesses has been a slow start, and granted we've had some great second quarters and third quarters to make up for that, but really being able to play a complete game is something that we want.”

The Cavaliers next travel to play Harvard in Cambridge, Mass. Saturday at noon. The game will be broadcast on ESPN+.


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