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Defense, balanced scoring leads Virginia past Bryant in comeback NCAA tournament win

Five players score two goals for the Hoos.

Virginia Media Relations (Matt Riley)

For the second straight season, the Virginia’s men’s lacrosse team is heading to the NCAA tournament quarterfinals. It wasn’t an easy feat as the Hoos had to face Mike Pressler and a tough Bryant squad, but strong defense, balanced scoring, and a good day in cage from Alex Rode propelled Virginia to a 13-11 win.

Virginia trailed 10-8 late in the third quarter before the Hoos rattled off five straight goals over a 13-minute span to take the lead. The game featured four ties and five lead changes as the NEC champ gave the reigning national champs everything they could handle.

First year Connor Shellenberger — who finished with two goals and three assists — opened the scoring for Virginia and was one of five players that had two goals for the home squad. Matt Moore matched Shellenberger’s two goal, three assist performance, and Ian Laviano added two goals and an assist. Peter Garno and Payton Cormier each had two scores, and Lars Tiffany’s squad also got goals from Petey LaSalla, Grayson Sallade, and Charlie Bertrand.

Alex Rode was fantastic in cage, getting 18 saves as the Bulldogs peppered him with 47 shots in the game. “My defense was playing so well, [both] the close and the d-mids,” Rode told media after the game. “Kyle Kology, Cade Kastner, [and] Quentin Matsui played really well. I had total faith that they were going let me see shots that were easy, and they played so well and played so hard that it wasn’t hard to want to show up for them and do everything I could.”

The Cavaliers took a one-goal lead into the halftime break and scored the first goal of the third quarter, but four straight goals from Bryant gave the upset-minded visitors a 10-8 lead with 5:41 left in the third. Garno’s second of the day cut the deficit to one, and the run was on.

A fantastic individual effort by defender Cade Saustad led to a turnover near midfield. Saustad found Sallade on the clear, and he beat two defenders to spin free and tie things up. Bryant had an extended possession with things tied at 10-10, but a great save from Rode and key ground ball by Chris Merle gave Virginia a chance to retake the lead.

Xander Dickson had the ball behind the cage and made a nifty move to lose his defender. Head up the whole time, Dickson found the shifty Laviano on the crease. He somehow caught the ball, dealt with contact, spun around, and put the ball in the back of the net for what would be the eventual game-winner.

Cormier’s second of the day put the Hoos up two, and the defense answered the call holding off Bryant as they tried to cut into the deficit. Bertrand would cap off the Virginia scoring with a put-back on a rebound, giving the Hoos a little breathing room with a three-goal lead with 3:18 to play.

Bryant would score one more, but it was not enough as the clock would run out. Virginia will now face No. 5 seed Georgetown in Hempstead, NY. The game will start at noon and will be broadcast by ESPNU.

Check out the full game highlights here: