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Highlights and reactions as Virginia men’s lacrosse goes back-to-back

The Virginia men’s lacrosse team just won its second consecutive title. Highlights and reactions from the ridiculously thrilling victory.

2021 NCAA Division I Men’s Lacrosse Championship Photo by Larry French/NCAA Photos via Getty Images

What. A. Game.

Winning 17-16 over the undefeated Maryland Terrapins, the Virginia Cavaliers successfully defended their title in what was the best college lacrosse game in recent memory.

With such a win on such a stage, there’s no shortage of jaw-dropping, heart-racing highlights and subsequent mind-boggled reactions.

To start, this UVA squad became the eighth team in NCAA college lacrosse history to repeat as National Champions. The run has been quite unorthodox, but there’s no doubt as to the state of the program right now and heading into the future.

In just the fifth year of Lars Tiffany’s tenure at Virginia and just the fourth completed season, Virginia has its second straight title, second straight Championship Weekend appearance, and third straight NCAA Tournament appearance after half a decade of down years at the end of Dom Starsia’s legendary time roaming the sideline. Tiffany has rebuilt a dynasty and is prepared to only continue to build in the new decade.

Before going any further though, it’s incredible what this graduating class of Wahoos have done in their four and fives seasons Charlottesville. Most having committed while Starsia was still the head coach, guys like Jared Conners, Dox Aitken, and Ian Laviano have been integral pieces in establishing a new culture for this program. Now leaving for greener pastures, they’ll head out with a pair of rings and the gratitude of an entire fanbase.

Taking a step back, that was a game like no other. Going back and forth all day long, the ‘Hoos and the Terps combined to put on a show for a rowdy crowd in Pratt & Whitney Stadium at Rentschler Field. Despite concerns that Maryland might run away with it early following their nine-goal win over Duke on Saturday, there was no such dominate performance on Monday as Virginia actually led for the majority of the game.

With Virginia’s seventh NCAA National Championship, the ‘Hoos now sit in sole third place all time as they move past Princeton with six titles. Now just behind Syracuse with 10 and Johns Hopkins with nine, the Virginia dynasty is the best it has ever been.

With just over ten seconds left in the fourth quarter and a one goal lead, Virginia needed one more big play from a specialist. Logically, with the biggest face off of his career ahead of him, it was Petey LaSalla who held the hopes of the program in his hands.

Yet, Maryland won the draw and go-to face off guy Luke Wierman took off towards the Virginia goal with a chance to tie the game. As the Virginia defense refused to slide off the more dangerous attackmen, Wierman streaked at senior goalie Alex Rode with the chance to send the game to overtime.

But, as he’s done countless times in his legendary career, Rode came up HUGE when it mattered most as he stuffed Wierman and clinched his second ring. And, while it’s far too early to look ahead to next season, Rode is expected to utilize his extra year of eligibility next year as he chases a third championship.

But, while Rode made the game winning play, it was the Most Outstanding Player of Championship Weekend Connor Shellenberger who carried this team throughout the NCAA Tournament. Totaling 14 goals and 10 assists in four games, the redshirt freshman and Charlottesville native has made the Virginia offense go throughout the postseason.

With just one year of eligibility used, Shellenberger is the undisputed future of this program. He’s arguably the most talented returning offensive player in college lacrosse next year. As voiced by Premier Lacrosse League star and former Penn State Nittany Lion Grant Ament, Shellenberger is pro-ready now and, if this were basketball, would have likely played his last game in a Virginia uniform.

Fortunately for Wahoo fans though, Shellenberger will be in Charlottesville for many years to come as he and Lars Tiffany set out to rule the college lacrosse world.

And, of course, with the men’s lacrosse program’s seventh title that brings UVA Athletics to a total of 29 team National Championships, far eclipsing any school located in Blacksburg.

Check out the highlights below: