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No. 4 men’s lacrosse falls in “heroic” game against No. 7 Syracuse after fourth-quarter charge

Two goals in the final two minutes sealed the deal for the Orange, marking the first time since 2017 the Cavaliers have lost consecutive games

<p>A bundle of Cavaliers celebrate after scoring a goal.</p>

A bundle of Cavaliers celebrate after scoring a goal.

Saturday’s game between No. 4 Virginia and No. 7 Syracuse at JMA Wireless Dome saw the teams battling back and forth in a game of runs. Unfortunately for the Cavaliers (10-3, 1-2 ACC), the Orange (11-4, 3-1 ACC) had the final one. Despite gaining possession twice in the final 45 seconds, Virginia was unable to score.

To start the first quarter, graduate attackman Payton Cormier scored two goals and graduate attackman Connor Shellenberger recorded one, and soon after junior defenseman Ben Wayer intercepted a pass and scored a coast-to-coast goal. A minute later, Syracuse scored its second goal, and the first quarter ended tied 4-4.

Syracuse opened the second quarter with a quick goal and scored two more to open up a six-goal run. Junior midfielder Griffin Schutz ended the run with a contested on-the-run shot. The Orange added one more goal before freshman attackman McCabe Millon got his 30th goal of the season off a feed from Shellenberger, bringing the score to 8-6 with Syracuse leading.

Twenty seconds later Virginia scored again in transition, Shellenberger assisting Cormier, who scored underhanded. After another Syracuse goal, Shellenberger stepped up and responded with two more. His first was an impressive on-the-run goal, and on his second he sniped the corner of the cage. The half ended with the score tied at 9-9. 

In the beginning of the third quarter, Millon ran past his defender in a long dodge from the top, shooting and scoring the moment he gained separation. But the Orange did not take this too kindly, as they went on a 4-0 spree in the next six minutes.

The Cavaliers made sure to respond, as Millon scored in transition and was assisted by Shellenberger. Sophomore midfielder Joey Terenzi added another goal on a quick backside maneuver, ending the quarter 13-12 as the two teams headed into the fourth.

On the opening possession of the fourth quarter, Cormier scored from point-blank range, tying the game at 13-13. Syracuse responded with one of its own, but Virginia opened up with a barrage of four goals.

Of the four, sophomore attackman Ryan Colsey had two — he shook free on a dodge to score his first and cut toward the cage during a man-up for his second. The other two were scored by Shellenberger and graduate attackman Will Cory, putting the Cavaliers on top 17-14.

In a little under eight minutes, Syracuse orchestrated a comeback to tie the game. After an incredible first save, Nunes missed an over-the-head shot from the huge battle for a ground ball that emerged right in front of him, tying the game 17-17 with just under two minutes left on the clock.

Virginia won the resulting faceoff, but a shot sailed wide. Syracuse graduate midfielder Sam English scored off that possession. Virginia won the next faceoff as well, looking to tie the game with 37 seconds remaining. But the Cavaliers failed to make anything work as their final shot was saved with seven seconds remaining on the clock. Despite the heartbreaking ending, Coach Lars Tiffany was proud of his men.

“What an incredible setting to witness two teams go up and down the field, play the game the way it’s meant to be played,” Tiffany said. “I told my men, ‘I couldn't be more grateful for them.’”

The Cavalier attack had an impressive showing, led by Shellenberger, who had nine points, four goals and five assists on the day — a career best in an ACC matchup. With him were Cormier, with four goals and one assist, and Millon, with three goals and two assists.

Saturday truly was an excellent game — Tiffany dubbed it “heroic” — both sides fighting hard to secure an important conference win. While Virginia failed to win, the game provided an excellent feel for what the NCAA Tournament will be like, preparing the team for May.

Virginia’s next game comes Saturday against No. 1 Notre Dame at Klöckner Stadium. It will be an epic rematch from last year’s Final Four, where Virginia fell in overtime to the eventual National Champions. The game is set for 2 p.m. and will air on ESPNU.

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