As 2021 comes to an end and spring sports edge closer, preseason lacrosse content is in full swing as experts have started to rank teams and predict how players will perform this spring. Coming off of back-to-back national championships, the Virginia Cavaliers are near the tops of various lists heading into the 2022 college lacrosse season.
For starters, the ‘Hoos were ranked first in the Nike/USA Lacrosse Magazine preseason top-20 which was put together by the USA Lacrosse Magazine with consultation of college coaches.
That ranking is no surprise considering the success that this program has had of late and the players returning for the 2022 season. NCAA Tournament MVP Connor Shellenberger along with stud fifth year attackman Matt Moore lead the charge offensively alongside great contributing pieces including Payton Cormier, Pete Garno, Jeff Conner, and Xander Dickson.
There’s also top-rated 2021 recruit Griffin Schutz to consider as he’s already received plenty of praise off of fall play and just recently topped Inside Lacrosse’s ranking of incoming freshman.
In the middle of the field, the ‘Hoos will miss LSM Jared Conners but still have one of the best face-off guys Petey LaSalla to rely on with what should solid group of short stick defensive midfielders headed by team-captain Grayson Sallade.
The defense returns a number of experienced pieces with lockdown close defender Cade Saustad along with the 6’7” sophomore Cole Kastner, the likely starting LSM Scott Bower, and junior Quentin Matsui.
In the cage Virginia loses long time starter and former NCAA Tournament MVP Alex Rode but have the top-rated incoming goalie in Mathew Nunes set to fill Rode’s large shoes. Of note, sophomore goalie Bobby Gavin who was in a competition with Nunes has since transferred to Syracuse.
As for individual accolades, Shellenberger leads the way for UVA as a first-team All-American at the attack position while North Carolina’s Chris Gray and Notre Dame’s Pat Kavanagh filled out the other two attack spots.
On the second team, Moore slots in at an attack position while LaSalla joins Moore as a preseason second team All-American.
Frankly, it’s a tad surprising a few more Wahoos didn’t make this list. Granted, USA Lacrosse Magazine only went as far as to name third team All-Americans. But guys like Saustad or Sallade should warrant attention for awards as the season starts and progresses.
Nonetheless, this is another stacked team with plenty of experience coached by a staff that specializes at getting their guys to peak in May. So, expectations should be incredibly high for this squad as the ‘Hoos look to be the first school to three-peat since Princeton from 1996 to 1998.