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2019 Men’s College Lacrosse Year In Review: #1 Virginia Cavaliers

Virginia won their first national championship since 2011 in Lars Tiffany’s third season.

Matt Dewkett

With the 2019 college lacrosse season complete, it’s time to look back at how all 73 teams did during the season, along with an early look at each squad for 2020.

Note: These are not end of season rankings.

Here’s our last five Year In Review posts we’ve done:

To see all of our posts, check out the 2019 Year In Review section on the site.

Let’s finish our 2019 Year In Review with the national champions!

#1 Virginia Cavaliers

Conference: ACC
2019 Record: 17-3 (3-1 in ACC)
Postseason: Defeated North Carolina and Notre Dame for ACC Championship, defeated Robert Morris, Maryland, Duke, and Yale for NCAA Championship
Head coach: Lars Tiffany (3rd Season)

Statistical Leaders

Goals: Ian Laviano (51)
Assists: Matt Moore (43)
Points: Matt Moore (89)
Faceoffs: Petey LaSalla (216-of-368; 58.7%)
Ground balls: Petey LaSalla (100)
Caused turnovers: Jared Conners (27)
Goals against average: Alex Rode (10.22)
Save percentage: Alex Rode (50.6%)

Personnel Losses

Key seniors departing: M Ryan Conrad (31 Gs, 18 As, 95 GBs, 11 CTs), D Logan Greco (21 CTs, 38 GBs), SSDM Dave Smith (7 CTs, 12 GBs, 3 As), A/M Mikey Herring (17 Gs, 18 As, 7 GBs, 3 CTs), SSDM Matt Dziama (4 CTs, 21 GBs), SSDM Cory Harris (2 CTs, 12 GBs, 1 G), D Theo Dol (8 CTs, 19 GBs, 1 G)
Senior scoring departing: 97 of 454 points (21.4%)
Senior starts lost: 56 of 200 (28%)

Season Summary

The past decade was an up-and-down one for Virginia lacrosse. After winning a national title in 2011, the Cavaliers missed the NCAA Tournament in 2013 followed by two first round exits the next couple of seasons. They missed the tournament again in 2016 and a messy divorce with Dom Starsia brought Lars Tiffany in as head coach. But after missing the tournament again in 2017, things looked to go up even though the Cavaliers were eliminated in the first round of the NCAA Tournament in 2018.

But the team didn’t look that good early on, beginning with a loss against Loyola. Virginia gave up seven points to Pat Spencer and five goals to Kevin Lindley while the Cavalier offense only scored nine goals in their first game. After trailing against a shorthanded Lehigh team at halftime, the Cavaliers outscored the Mountain Hawks 7-2 in the final 30 minutes to get a three-goal win. Yet Virginia suffered another loss, this time to upstart High Point, to fall to 1-2 on the season.

The loss to the Panthers would be the first of four-straight one-goal games for the Cavaliers. And prior to their game against Princeton, Virginia would make a change in net with freshman Patrick Burkinshaw starting over Alex Rode. Burkinshaw was a huge reason why the Cavaliers would edge the Tigers in overtime with 24 stops on the afternoon. He got the start against Syracuse in the team’s ACC opener but was replaced by Rode in the second half after giving up seven goals with six saves. It was a questionable move to some, but Virginia made a comeback in the fourth quarter to edge the Orange in the Carrier Dome. The Cavaliers were involved in another overtime game the following week, this time at home against Brown. Michael Kraus scored five goals in the game, including the game-tying and game-winning tallies.

ACC play continued with a rematch of last season’s ACC title game against Notre Dame. Down 10-5 with 8:59 left in the third quarter, Virginia scored eight of the final nine goals in the game to prevail by two. The Wahoos had a break from non-conference play with wins over Johns Hopkins, Richmond, and Utah before recording another fourth quarter comeback, this time against North Carolina, to go 3-0 in conference play.

Despite a five-goal loss to Duke in their ACC regular season finale, the Cavaliers finished atop the ACC for the first time since 2010. They closed the regular season with blowout wins over VMI and Marist before taking on North Carolina in the ACC semifinals. Unlike the first meeting, Burkinshaw replaced Rode in the second half with a six-all tie, which was another questionable decision for some. But the Cavaliers provided another fourth quarter comeback with six of the final seven goals to advance to the ACC Championship against Notre Dame at Klöckner for the second straight season. This time around, Virginia cruised past the Fighting Irish for their first conference title since 2010.

As the No. 3 seed in the NCAA Tournament, the Wahoos defeated Robert Morris in the first round for their first tournament win since 2012. Their road appeared to be over against Maryland in the quarterfinals. Down four with 10:38 left in regulation, Virginia scored five goals to tie the game up, including Kraus’ controversial tying goal that appeared to hit the crossbar. Matt Moore won the game in overtime to send the Cavaliers to Championship Weekend for the first time since winning it all in 2011.

Then came Duke, a team they only beaten once in the entire decade. The Blue Devils had a two-goal lead with 1:56 left to play and were eyeing their second straight appearance in the national title game. But Virginia got a pair of goals from Kraus and Ian Laviano in the final 46 seconds to force overtime. After both teams were unable to convert in the first extra session, Laviano cashed in to send the Cavaliers to the national championship game in double overtime. Two days later against defending national champion Yale, Virginia used runs of four and five goals en route to their first national championship since 2011 and sixth NCAA title all-time (eight overall when you include two USILA titles). Virginia also won ACC and NCAA titles in the same season for the first time since 2006.

With Kraus and Laviano down at attack, the breakout player was sophomore Matt Moore. Moore finished the season with 89 points, a single-season record that broke Doug Knight’s 86 back in 1996. He also became the program’s first player with 40 goals and 40 assists in a season (46 Gs, 43 As). Up top at midfield, the records continued to fall for Dox Aitken. His 44 goals broke a single-season record for goals in a season by a midfielder, and his 52 points broke Virginia’s previous single-season record he set last season. The junior also became the program’s career goals and points leader for a Cavalier midfielder and became the only UVA midfielder to eclipse the 100-goal plateau. Aitken was joined by Ryan Conrad for the entire season, with Mikey Herring and Jeff Connor splitting starts on the first midfield unit. Xander Dickson, Jack Peele, Ryan Lamb, and Jack Simmons were also depth options at the position.

Although not as glamorous, the defense had their veteran leader in Logan Greco alongside sophomore Kyle Kology and freshman Cade Saustad at close. Theo Dol and Griffin Spolansky also saw time primarily on the wings and man-down defense. Jared Conners led the Cavaliers with 27 caused turnovers, while Will Rock had another solid season with 10 caused turnovers as the second LSM. John Fox, Dave Smith, Matt Dziama, and Cory Harris were the team’s big short stick defensive midfielders. Freshman Petey LaSalla was a threat at the faceoff X at 58.7% and on offense with eight goals and an assist. Justin Schwenk went 52.6% on 152 draws. Rode had a 10.22 goals against average, but shined in the NCAA Tournament and was named the Most Outstanding Player. Burkinshaw was a very solid second option.

Looking Ahead

Virginia doesn’t lose a lot in 2020, but some of their losses are big losses. The biggest will be Conrad, a Swiss Army Knife that can play offense, defense, and faceoff wings. It might take more than one player to replace what he could do.

Their defense does take a hit with Greco and three short stick defenders graduated. The rope unit will need to replenish, with Grayson Sallade a potential guy to get more playing time in 2020. Burkinshaw transferred to Penn in the summer, meaning that either Griffin Thompson or brother Miles Thompson will look to be Rode’s backup.

There will also be plenty of young players getting playing time, especially Connor Schellenberger and Payton Cormier, who will look to help Virginia get back-to-back titles.

Poll

How many wins will Virginia get in 2020?

This poll is closed

  • 4%
    0-10
    (5 votes)
  • 15%
    11-12
    (17 votes)
  • 27%
    13-14
    (30 votes)
  • 51%
    15+
    (56 votes)
108 votes total Vote Now