Through the first two seasons of Lars Tiffany’s tenure in Charlottesville, the Cavaliers recorded just one regular season win against an ACC opponent. Four years later, Virginia just put the finishing touches on a 5-1 season in the ACC, earning its second ACC Men’s Lacrosse Championship in the last three seasons. The magnitude of what Tiffany and his coaching staff have accomplished at UVA can perhaps be best encapsulated by Virginia’s 6.0 average margin of victory in the five wins against conference foes this season. Virginia concluded conference play with a comfortable 21-15 victory at Syracuse on Saturday to secure the program’s 19th ACC title.
Playing on the road at the soon-to-be-renamed Carrier Dome, the Cavaliers left no question as to who is the best team in the Atlantic Coast Conference this season.
Syracuse’s Tucker Dordevic opened the scoring with an unassisted goal just over a minute in to give the Orange their first and only lead of the game. Nine seconds later, Connor Shellenberger found the back of the net to put UVA on the board. That sparked a 5-0 UVA run and the Cavaliers held a 6-3 lead at the end of the first quarter, with each of the six Virginia goals coming from a different scorer.
Syracuse cut it to a one-goal margin on a Jacob Buttermore goal a few minutes into the second quarter, but UVA responded with another scoring run, tallying six of the last seven goals of the half to take a 12-7 lead into halftime.
Matt Moore, who returned from a lower-body injury that has kept him off the field for the better part of the last three weeks, scored a goal and assisted on two more in the second quarter. Moore finished with three goals and four assists in the game.
Petey LaSalla was a difference maker at the faceoff x for the Cavaliers. After a rough start that saw him lose eight of the first 11 draws, LaSalla bounced back and ended up winning just shy of 50% of the faceoffs, going 19/39 against Syracuse’s Jakob Phaup. LaSalla also scored two goals and assisted on a third, setting a career-high with three points.
LaSalla and Phaup essentially canceled out at the faceoff x, but Virginia won the possession battle thanks to a 42-31 advantage in ground balls, a perfect 22/22 mark on clears, and 16 Syracuse turnovers, 11 of which were caused by Virginia. Quentin Matsui had three of the caused turnovers and also collected two ground balls for the UVA defense.
Syracuse scored the first goal of the second half, but Virginia then rattled off six-consecutive goals to essentially put the game out of reach with more than 20 minutes still left on the clock, as UVA built an 18-8 lead.
Jeff Conner paced the UVA offense with four goals and three assists on just six shots. Conner also picked up two ground balls and caused a turnover in what was a career day for the senior midfielder.
Xander Dickson tallied a hat trick and Payton Cormier, Connor Shellenberger, and Griffin Schutz each scored two goals for Virginia.
The Cavaliers blitzed the Syracuse goaltenders with 53 shots, 32 of which were on cage. Harrison Thompson made 10 saves versus 16 goals allowed for the Orange and UVA transfer Bobby Gavin allowed the other five goals and made just one save. Matthew Nunes did not have his best performance in between the pipes for Virginia, yielding 15 goals and making just six saves, but several of Syracuse’s goals came after the game was out of reach and Virginia started to rotate in some bench players on the defensive end .
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Jackson Birtwistle led Syracuse with five goals and Tucker Dordevic had a hat trick for the Orange, who dropped to 4-9 overall on the season.
Virginia is now 10-3 overall and 5-1 in ACC play and the Cavaliers have clinched the 2022 ACC Men’s Lacrosse Championship after guaranteeing a first-place finish in the conference in terms of winning percentage in ACC games.
Virginia concludes the regular season back home at Klockner Stadium on Thursday, April 28th at 6pm against Lafayette. The Cavaliers will then await selection to the NCAA Tournament, which begins on May 14th.
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