Redshirt first year Connor Shellenberger played like a seasoned veteran on Saturday afternoon in Long Island as the Virginia men’s lacrosse team cruised to a 14-3 win over No. 5-seed Georgetown in the NCAA tournament quarterfinals. Shellenberger scored a career-high five goals in the first half and finished with six goals and one assist.
His six goals match a program record for goals in a postseason game, a mark Doug Knight (1995) and Mike Herring (2019) hit previously.
Eight different players scored for Virginia, and only Ian Laviano joined Shellenberger with multiple goals (two). Matt Moore, Dox Aitken, Xander Dickson, Payton Cormier, Charlie Bertrand, and Petey LaSalla all notched one goal for the Hoos.
As a result of the win, the No. 4-seeded Cavaliers are headed back to Championship Weekend for the second straight time. It was a clinic from nearly start-to-finish, but things got off to a tough start as Jared Conners and John Fox were called for an illegal body check and interference, respectively. That gave the Hoyas a 6-on-4 advantage within the first 35 seconds of the game, but Alex Rode came up with a huge save. After a successful clear and penalty kill, Laviano opened the scoring with a rip from out front, assisted by Shellenberger.
Georgetown answered to tie things up, but from there on out it was all Virginia. Shellenberger gave the Hoos the lead right back with a nifty move on the crease and easy finish, and the Cavaliers would score the next eight goals to take 10-1 lead into halftime.
The Hoyas opened the second half with a goal, but another four goal run by Virginia kept the faint glimmer of hope of a comeback off the table.
Virginia dominated in every facet of the game. The Cavaliers outshot the Hoyas, 45-27, a remarkable number especially when you consider that Virginia took their foot off the gas in the fourth quarter. LaSalla rebounded from tough back-to-back outings by winning 15 of the 19 face offs he took (79%) and scoring one goal. Georgetown’s starting face-off man, James Reilly, was injured on the opening face off.
Lars Tiffany wanted his team to play with aggressiveness and physicality against an athletic Georgetown team, and they obliged. Dox Aitken, who had planned on using his final year of eligibility to play football at Villanova, came back to Virginia for one more season after COVID-19 disrupted the season. He made a huge impact early as he laid a big hit on a Georgetown clear that got Virginia the ball back and gave his team the lead for good.
On the ground, the Hoos grabbed 31 ground balls to Georgetown’s 16.
Georgetown opened the second half with a goal, but their third goal of the game wouldn’t come until the 5:02 mark of the fourth quarter. The Virginia defense, which Georgetown head coach Kevin Warne likened to playing a bunch velociraptors, was disruptive all afternoon. They finished with 12 caused turnovers, and goalkeeper Rode was phenomenal when the Hoyas were able to get shots off. Rode notched eight saves — and backup Bobby Gavin had two over the final five minutes — and finished with a save percentage of 73%.
The Cavalier defense held Georgetown’s leading scorer Jake Carraway scoreless, the first time the Tewaaraton Trophy finalist hasn’t found the back of the net in 44 games (which was the nation’s longest active scoring streak). TJ Haley, the nation’s leading assist man, finished with no goals, no assists, and just one shot.
Next up, Virginia faces the winner of Rutgers and No. 1 North Carolina. The semifinals will be at noon and 2:30 next weekend.