The Virginia Cavaliers men’s lacrosse team participated in the USA Lacrosse Fall Classic this weekend. The Hoos played in two games on Saturday against Team Canada and against Team USA.
The first game went about as you would expect when you have a team composed of some of the most talented lacrosse players in the world playing against a college team. Team Canada defeated Virginia 18-7 on Saturday.
Essentially, that outcome is what is meant to happen in these games. The national lacrosse teams representing Canada and the United States get a chance to play in a real game, rather than scrimmaging against themselves, and easily defeat the collegiate opponent by a wide margin, as was the case in Team Canada’s victory over Virginia.
Team USA did not have the same experience.
After falling behind 5-0 in the first quarter, Virginia outplayed Team USA for the remainder of the game and nearly completed the comeback, falling just short as Team USA prevailed 8-7.
The Cavalier defense was perhaps the most striking aspect of UVA’s performance, as the Hoos held the superteam of lacrosse talent that is Team USA to just eight goals. The defending National Champions even held Team USA scoreless in the second and fourth quarters, a wildly impressive feat.
Virginia’s goalkeepers made eight saves collectively. Freshman Matthew Nunes started and made four saves with five goals allowed in the first half. Sophomore Bobby Gavin played the third quarter and made two saves with three goals allowed and junior David Roselle played the fourth and had two saves and allowed no goals.
Virginia outshot USA in each of the second, third, and fourth quarters, including a staggering 12-1 margin in the second quarter.
Freshman Griffin Shultz got UVA on the board in the second quarter. Shultz received a pass from Peter Garno on the doorstep and did a couple of fakes while leaping in the air to increase his angle and then finished for Virginia’s first goal of the game.
Xander Dickson then assisted on a Payton Cormier goal, as UVA outscored USA 2-0 in the second quarter to make it 5-2 heading into halftime.
UVA struggled at the faceoff x, as Team USA has three of the top faceoff specialists in the sport and won 14 of the 18 faceoffs, but Virginia countered by forcing 17 USA turnovers.
USA got goals from Grant Ament and Joe Nardella to extend the lead back to five in the third quarter, but Xander Dickson responded with a pair of goals to get back within three. On the first goal, Dickson cut through the middle of the defense, caught a pass from Thomas Mencke, and put it in the back of the net.
A little over two minutes later, Dickson scored again to make it 7-4.
Sergio Perkovic scored on a blistering shot from long range that certainly would have been a two-pointer in the PLL, but Virginia responded again on a goal by junior Will Cory. Thomas Mencke found a cutting Cory, who caught the ball high and finished it low with his backhand to make it 8-5 heading into the fourth quarter.
Less than two minutes into the fourth quarter, Cory scored an even more impressive backhand goal to bring the Hoos within two.
Virginia scored its third goal in a row on an unassisted goal by senior midfielder Jack Simmons to pull UVA within one at 8-7 with over 10 minutes still to play.
Unfortunately, neither team would score for the rest of the game as both defenses tightened up and UVA’s admirable comeback attempt came up just short.
In a game which Virginia was supposed to have no chance to win, however, there were no shortage of positive takeaways. UVA’s defense held an extremely talented Team USA in check for 75% of the game, several new faces made key plays, and the Hoos did not give up in the face of adversity after falling behind 5-0 to start the game. Even more impressive, the Cavaliers performed that well against Team USA in their second game of the day.
Even in the 18-7 loss against Team Canada earlier that day, the Hoos showed flashes of promise. Xander Dickson, who scored two goals against Canada as well and led Virginia with four total goals on Saturday, had perhaps the most flashy goal of any scored this weekend at the USA Lacrosse Fall Classic. Dickson dodged from behind the cage, did a swim-move and then finished with his backhand at a very sharp angle.
Dickson also scored on this low-to-high missile.
Matt Moore, who returns for his fifth season at Virginia this spring, got in the box score against Team Canada with this crafty move.
Another graduate student, Regan Quinn, scored a rocket of a goal to get Virginia on the board against Canada.
Finally, both Bobby Gavin and Matthew Nunes, who look to fill the shoes of two-time national champion Alex Rode, made incredible saves to keep Canada out of the net in Saturday’s game.
Virginia did not pull off the upset against Team Canada or Team USA, but the Cavaliers certainly showed that they have the makings of a team ready to go for a three-peat when the college lacrosse season returns in February.