For the first time in Virginia men’s lacrosse history, the Cavaliers are back-to-back champs. Virginia outlasted the No. 3-seed Maryland Terrapins 17-16 to win the program’s seventh NCAA Championship. It was Maryland’s first loss of the season, and the Terps finish 15-1. They were looking to become the first undefeated champ since Virginia went 17-0 in 2006, but have lost 10 of their last 11 championship appearances.
In a game that will certainly be dubbed an “instant classic,” the Cavaliers held a 16-11 lead with just over 11 minutes to play. Maryland went on a frantic four-goal run that cut the lead to one with, but Virginia defenseman Cade Saustad cleaned up a ground ball in traffic and streaked towards the goal. He briefly looked like he considered a low-angle shot, but wisely dished a perfect pass to Matt Moore for a goal that would prove to be the decisive one.
Maryland would once again get within striking distance with 10 seconds left, and the Terps won the ensuing face off cleanly by Luke Wierman. He streaked towards the cage in a race against the clock, and ripped a low shot. Virginia keeper Alex Rode came up with his 12th and final save, and the horn would sound on another title for the Hoos.
Moore finished with four goals and two assists, but it was teammate Connor Shellenberger that wowed the crowd of over 14,000 in East Hartford Connecticut. Shellenberger, a redshirt first year, had four goals and two assists as well, but he utterly dominated his matchup against Maryland defender Nick Grill. He was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player with 14 goals and 10 assists across the four games.
Moore, Jared Conners, Petey LaSalla, Rode, and Saustad all made the NCAA All-Tournament team as well.
Saustad was sensational on likely Tewaaraton winner, Jared Bernhardt, holding the talented offensive player to two goals on 13 shots. Maryland took 10 more shots than the Hoos, but the same number on goal (28).
It was the stereotypical game of runs as Virginia rattled off both a six and five-goal run at separate times of the game, and Maryland had two three-goal runs and a four-goal run. Every time the Terps threatened, Virginia responded.
After Logan Wisnauskas found the cage for his fourth goal to tie things at 11-11 with 9:11 remaining in the third, Virginia responded with five straight to give them some much-needed breathing room.
LaSalla finished with 21 face off wins, and Virginia got added offensive support from Jeff Conner (three goals, one assist) and Payton Cormier (two goals), and one goal apiece from LaSalla, Dox Aitken, Peter Garno, and Conners.
Another NCAA trophy coming back to Charlottesville.