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Virginia Lacrosse 2020: The Specialists

Time to check in with face offs and goalie play.

2019 NCAA Division I Men’s Lacrosse Championship Photo by Larry French/NCAA Photos via Getty Images

The Virginia men’s lacrosse season kicks off this Saturday against Loyola, and it’s time to get into the positional break downs. For each unit — offense, midfield, defense, and specialists — we’re going to highlight some of the players that departed, some that return, and who is new for the Hoos in 2020.

Next up, the specialists! For this preview, we’re looking at goalies and face off players. The great news is that the Hoos are returning their face off specialists that killed it last year, and the goalie that won Most Outstanding Player in the NCAA tournament.

For a little background, both positions are incredibly important the way head coach Lars Tiffany likes to play the game. His fast-paced, high-possession style is only successful when you can get stops (goalie) and create more opportunities (face offs).

The play in both spots improved over the course of the season last year, leading directly to Virginia’s conference and NCAA tournament successes.

Who Left

No one! Huzzah!

Who Returns

Petey LaSalla (Face off) - What a revelation LaSalla was. LaSalla finished 216-of-368 (59%) for the season at the face off X and was absolutely electric in comebacks against Maryland and Duke in the quarterfinals and semifinals of the NCAA tournament, respectively. In the national championship game, he won just 4-of-17 (24%), but was going against the nation’s most dominant face off man (T.D. Ierlan). While he didn’t win many of the face offs, he did score two goals off of his four wins and tied Ierlan up enough that it limited Yale’s fast-paced offense.

La Salla finished with eight goals, one assist, and 100 ground balls for the season.

Justin Schwenk (Face off) - Another face off guy, Schwenk won 53% of his attempts at the X. While LaSalla is likely to be the primary guy, Schwenk is a solid player that set the UVA single-season face off win record (242) in 2018. Although not as big of a scoring threat as LaSalla, Schwenk had two assists last year.

Alex Rode (Goalie) - Rode started 17 of the 19 games he played in last season, notching a 51% save percentage. He was fantastic in the NCAA tournament, saving 31 shots over the final two games of the season. Rode also had one assist on the season.

Who is New

Gavin Tygh - What’s that? You wanted more depth at the face off X? You got it. Tygh, from Pennsylvania, was the No. 4 face off recruit in the country and played in the Under Armour All-America game. “Gavin is a is a fantastic athlete,” Tiffany said of his new player. “He’s an athlete first, who’s a good face off man. He uses his athleticism to create offense. Gavin wants to win that ball and go right to the goal.”