The Virginia Cavaliers will have a chance to win back-to-back national titles in men’s lacrosse as the Hoos withstood a frantic 4th quarter rally to hold on to a 12-11 victory over top-seeded North Carolina in the NCAA tournament semifinals. Virginia had a comfortable 9-4 lead at the halftime break, but the Tar Heels turned up the pressure in the second half to pull within one with 3:05 to play. UNC had four possessions in that final stretch, but the Cavalier defense stood strong despite issues in the clearing game.
Goalkeeper Alex Rode, who finished with 15 saves and a 58% save percentage in the game, had a huge save on Nicky Solomon with 2:19 remaining. After a long Virginia possession that ended with a turnover, the Cavaliers got the ball back with 31 seconds left. On the clear, UNC’s William Perry disrupted Rode’s outlet pass, giving the Heels one more shot at tying things up with 20 seconds left on the clock.
The Virginia defense stood tall, and UNC couldn’t even get a shot off. As time expired, the Cavaliers streamed onto the field to celebrate their 13th win of the season.
The defensive stand that sent us back to #GoHoos pic.twitter.com/9m3Egqf6pi— Virginia Men's Lacrosse (@UVAMensLax) May 29, 2021
Connor Shellenberger led Virginia in points with six as he scored twice and dished four assists. Payton Cormier had a hat trick on the afternoon, and Charlie Bertrand was the only other multiple-goal scorer with two. Eight total Cavaliers found the back of the net, with Matt Moore, Ian Laviano, Peter Garno, Jared Conners, and Jeff Conner each scoring one.
Petey LaSalla won 15 of 27 face offs (56%), including a 9-0 advantage in the second quarter when Virginia outscored Carolina 7-1.
The game opened with the two teams swapping goals until Bertrand’s first goal of the game broke a 4-4 tie. On the play, Moore let loose a shot that was blocked and caromed to the right. Bertrand picked it up in stride and went one-on-one with the goalie. It was a no-doubter:
Shot • Carom • GB • GOAL!!!— Virginia Men's Lacrosse (@UVAMensLax) May 29, 2021
Bertrand picks up the loose ball and puts UVA up, 5-4, with 6:43 left in the first half. #GoHoos
Watch the Game Live on ESPN2: https://t.co/3BI9gDSKEX pic.twitter.com/eBi46ynEQf
Virginia scored the next four goals heading into the break, capped off by Bertrand’s second of the day. North Carolina found the back of the net first in the second half, but Virginia rallied with an answer every time the Tar Heels got within striking distance. After UNC made it 9-6, Shellenberger scored on an absolute burner over Collin Krieg.
GRACIOUS— Virginia Men's Lacrosse (@UVAMensLax) May 29, 2021
Connor Shellenberger stinging corners. UVA extends lead to four goals, 10-6. #GoHoos
Watch the Game Live on ESPN2: https://t.co/3BI9gDSKEX pic.twitter.com/UjyoGZZRFY
North Carolina responded with two straight, but Virginia answered with two of their own — both assisted by Shellenberger — to keep a four goal cushion. The Tar Heels scored the last three goals of the game, but were unable to tie things up.
Krieg had just five saves in the game, but the Tar Heels took a page out of Virginia’s book with an aggressive ride. The Cavaliers cleared at just a 70% rate and had 22 turnovers in the game.
Next up, Virginia plays the winner of No. 2 Duke vs. No. 3 Maryland for the National Championship. The game is scheduled for 1pm at Rentschler Field in Connecticut and will be televised on ESPN2.