Virginia falls to one of the game’s all-time greatest teams in 18-9 loss to Maryland

By Jerry Ratcliffe

lacrosse

(© Augustas Cetkauskas – stock.adobe.com)

Lars Tiffany knew what his Virginia team was going to face in the NCAA men’s lacrosse quarterfinals on Sunday — a high-octane, undefeated Maryland squad that appeared invulnerable.

After getting sledgehammered 18-9 by the undefeated Terrapins, ending Virginia’s reign of back-to-back national titles, Tiffany was even more impressed with Maryland’s greatness.

“We’ve just faced, in my opinion, the best team in the last 16 years,” Tiffany said of the Terps. “I’m biased of course, but when I think about the great teams of all time, I think about the 1990 Syracuse team, and then 16 years later it was Virginia’s undefeated season in 2006 under Dom Starsia, having only one close game the whole way.”

Maryland (16-0) gave up an early goal to UVA, but then picked up steam and never looked back, dominating the game the way the nation’s No. 1 team should. The Terps flexed their muscles to take a 9-4 halftime lead, then reeled off four unanswered goals to start the second half, expanding their cushion to 13-4 before closing out the Cavaliers.

“There just isn’t a weakness, there’s not a weak spot,” Tiffany said about Maryland. “We struggled to create good offensive looks, we struggled to win matchups today.”

Virginia had no answers for the Terrapins’ dominance. Maryland rattled off 50 shots and had 10 different players score goals. The Terps dominated the faceoffs, 21-10, and handcuffed two of Virginia’s most lethal offensive threats — Matt Moore and Connor Shellenberger — who were a combined 1-of-14 on shots taken.

Jeff Conner led UVA with a hat trick, going 3 for 6 on the day, while Payton Cormier and Griffin Schutz scored two goals each. The Terps were led by fifth-year senior attacker Logan Wisnauskas, who became the program’s all-time leading scorer, and Anthony DeMaio, with three goals apiece.

Maryland coach John Tillman said that it wasn’t easy staring down the defending national champions, and knew that preparation was key. The Terps had handed UVA a 23-12 regular-season setback some weeks ago, but knew the Cavaliers would be ready for the rematch.

“Virginia does so many things well,” Tillman said. “They push the ball in transition. They’re so dangerous that you just can’t get them in transition. We saw that last week (in UVA’s win over Brown). We were like, ‘We can’t give them that.’”

Tillman convinced his veteran players to be selfless and drop back on defense to prevent the Cavaliers from taking advantage of those scenarios.

The Terps also expected Virginia to make some changes for the rematch after such a lopsided result earlier in the season. One of those changes was a UVA zone defense because nothing else seemed to be effective against Maryland.

“We fell into a zone, and those who know me and my coaching style, I despise zone defense,” Tiffany said. “But we knew we had to find something else because the first time they torched us on the other end of the field.”

Tillman and his staff were well-prepared for UVA’s tactic and had talked about how Tiffany had used some zone at Brown before becoming Virginia’s head coach. Tillman was at Harvard at the time, so was familiar.

Whatever the Cavaliers tried, nothing seemed to work against the Terps, who had plenty of motivation coming into the contest. Virginia had ended Maryland’s previous two seasons, including last year’s come-from-behind victory over the Terps in the national championship game.

“It’s a different year this year and we’ve kind of been harping on that all year,” said Maryland defenseman Ajax Zappitello, who drew the challenging assignment of defending Virginia’s Shellenberger, tabbed “Mr. May” for his offensive success in postseason play dating back to last season, his first at UVA. “We want to keep harping on that. We’re trying to reach our goal and that’s the national championship. Today’s win gives us another week together.”

Tiffany was hoping the Cavaliers (12-4) could get off to a good start in the second half and make a game of it, but Maryland dominated the entire half.

Wisnauskas scored three of his goals in the third quarter, with the Terps scoring on back-to-back goals with seven- and then six-second spans to take a commanding 15-5 lead.

Tiffany said that after the early-season match, he knew that if his team did its work, Virginia would meet Maryland again this season, and while the rematch didn’t turn out the way he wanted, his team can learn from Sunday’s loss.

“We talked a little about what can we take away [from the loss],” Tiffany said about his postgame chat with his team.

Tiffany noted that Maryland’s loss to UVA in last year’s national title game served as a great impetus for the Terps to get back in the championship hunt this year.

“Now, it’s our turn to learn from this so we can come back in 2023 at a different level,” Tiffany said.

Box Score

Game Notes

Courtesy UVA Media Relations

  • This year’s NCAA Tournament appearance was the 41st in program history for the Cavaliers. Only Johns Hopkins (47) and the Terrapins (44) have been to the tournament more times than UVA.  
  • Virginia is now 57-34 (.626) all-time in NCAA Tournament games. Only Johns Hopkins (71), Maryland (67) and Syracuse (65) have more NCAA Tournament wins than UVA. 
  • With the win, Maryland snapped a five-game losing streak to the Cavaliers in NCAA Tournament games, which began in 2003. UVA had ended Maryland’s season in the NCAA Tournament in 2019 and 2021. 
  • Virginia attackman Matt Moore (143 goals, 134 assists) concluded his career as UVA’s all-time leading point scorer with 277 points in 73 games played. 
  • Moore’s 143 career goals are good for second in program history, while his 134 assists stand at No. 5 all-time. 
  • Moore also rounds out his career on a 64-game point streak, which began March 31, 2018 – in his freshman season. During that span he posted 133 goals and 128 assists. 
  • For his career he appeared in 11 NCAA Tournament games in which posted 23 goals and 20 assists. His 23 goals are tied for sixth all-time with Steele Stanwick, while his 20 assists are good for fourth. Moore’s 42 points are tied for third all-time in UVA history with Matt Ward.  
  • With 11 saves Sunday, goalie Matthew Nunes finished his freshman campaign with 159 saves, the most by a freshman goalie in UVA history. 
  • UVA’s Matt Moore, Regan Quinn, Jack Peele, Paul Rodriguez, Jack Simmons, and Miles Thompson concluded their collegiate careers on Sunday.
 

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