The Virginia men’s lacrosse team started the 2024 season exactly how it started the 2023 season: a win at Klockner Stadium against Michigan. The Cavaliers put on a show for the home crowd, winning by a score of 19-11. Fans were pleasantly surprised by the play of some unfamiliar youngsters, as well as a strong showing at the faceoff X.
After such a strong start, UVA coach Lars Tiffany seems to have his team ready for another impressive year.
“I’m thrilled,” said Tiffany on the team’s opening performance. “We lost 18 men from last year’s team. Like you said we still have [Connor] Shellenberger and [Payton] Cormier and [Cole] Kastner. We had a lot of good players coming back, but still, you never lose 18 players in lacrosse. Maybe football. We might lose 9 or 10 from one year to the next. Fortunately we were able to lean on Cormier and have some of the young guys step up like they did. The key here was what happened at the faceoff X.”
It was all Virginia in the first half, starting on the defensive end. The Hoos caused 5 turnovers in the game’s opening 15 minutes. Two came courtesy of John Schroter. The sophomore defender from Riverside, Virginia, made the first start of his career on Saturday after redshirting a season ago. His lengthy, 6’6″ frame makes it easy for him to stay in the hands of the player he’s guarding. On his second caused turnover, Schroter stripped the Michigan attackman before finding Joey Terenzi on an outlet pass. Terenzi used a pump fake to freeze the Michigan defender and fired home a goal to put Virginia up 1-0. Schroter finished with 3 caused turnovers and 5 groundballs.
Terenzi proved to be a problem for Michigan in transition all day. After redshirting a season ago, the sophomore was also making his first appearance at short stick defensive midfield. He dished out 2 assists to go along with his goal. It was known that Noah Chizmar and transfer Chase Yager would get significant playing time at SSDM. Terenzi will certainly continue to get big minutes and could have a big role for Virginia this season, especially in the transition/clearing game.
“It brings a Ryan Conrad-type style,” Tiffany said of Terenzi’s speed in transition. “He is our new version of Ryan Conrad. Just someone who can do things on offense, do things on defense, stay on the faceoff wings. It’s really fun watching Joey play.”
McCabe Millon really stole the show on Saturday. The freshman came to UVA as the No. 1 recruit in the 2023 class. He got the start at attack against Michigan and wasted little time letting his presence be known. With 4:30 left in the first quarter, Millon used a pick at goal line extended to get topside and fire a shot top shelf to put Virginia up 3-0. After a Michigan goal, Millon again found the back of the net, this time scoring with his left hand. A late, illegal hit on Millon drew a penalty, but the freshman showed that he is still maturing, drawing a penalty of his own for talking to the defender after the whistle.
“What a fantastic performance by a first-year,” Tiffany said. “Aren’t they supposed to feel a little pressure? Aren’t they supposed to be a little scared? McCabe recognized he had a matchup he could win, and that’s just who we are at Virginia lacrosse. We try to take away the playing with fear. Go out and be loose and be yourself. We attract ballplayers like McCabe and look, you might make a bunch of mistakes. It’s okay, make the next play and boy he just kept making the next play and the next play.”
The freshman phenom made up for his mistake and continued his breakout debut performance, finishing the first half with 4 goals. For his fourth goal, Millon caught a long pass from goalie Matthew Nunes. He went right at his defender, sprinting towards the cage. Then Air Millon came out. The freshman took flight and dove through the crease, slotting home another goal. His body seemed completely parallel with the ground at one point. The home crowd rose to their feet, in awe of Millon’s immediate impact. He finished the day with 5 points, all coming on goals.
“Dream come true,” McCabe said. “First of all, the whole fall all you’re thinking about is trying to get a win and you’re thinking about Michigan and that first game of the year, so it’s awesome to get that first win. To play a role in that is really cool, but eyes forward to Richmond next week and we’ll focus on that once we get back to practice tomorrow.”
The Cavaliers took a 10-3 lead to halftime. Aside from Terenzi and Millon, goals came from Ben Wayer, Ryan Colsey, Shellenberger, and Cormier (2). Defensively, Nunes stood on his head. Virginia did a good job of limiting Michigan’s scoring opportunities, but when the Wolverines were able to get an open look, the junior goalie was right there to make the save. He finished the opening 30 minutes with 8 saves on a 72.7 save percentage. He even added an assist on Millon’s fourth goal. He landed at 13 saves on a 56.5% save percentage and even added 2 caused turnovers.
The third quarter unfolded as a pretty back-and-forth game compared to the first half, with each team going on scoring runs. Justin Tiernan and Bo Lockwood scored on back-to-back possessions for Michigan to make it a 13-7 game. It felt like the Wolverines started building some momentum, so Coach Tiffany opted for a timeout. It proved to be pretty effective, as Virginia scored the game’s next 4 goals to make it 17-7. Cormier scored twice and finished the game with six points (5 goals, 1 assist). His fourth goal came off an assist from Jack Boyden. The Tufts transfer dodged around up top, before dishing the ball to Cormier. He was obviously ready to shoot, as the ball stayed in his stick for maybe half a second before shooting low-to-low and beating the goalie.
Boyden too had a strong debut for Virginia. He played out of the midfield and finished with 5 points (2 goals, 3 assists). Both goals were highlight reel material. For his first, Boyden beat his man at X to his left. Rather than switch the stick to his left hand, the Canadian kept it in his dominant right hand and used a back handed shot to score. On his second goal, Boyden caught a pass in front of the goal from Cormier. As Michigan defenders crashed towards him, Boyden fired home a behind-the-back shot.
“It’s who we are,” Tiffany said on Boyden’s highlight reel goals. “He’s been torturing Division 3 lacrosse for four years with that type of play. No wonder he was the Division 3 Player of the Year. What a joy to see him play. It’s who we are. John Schroter’s gonna throw over the head checks, we’re gonna run and gun as fast as we did, we’re gonna throw behind-the-back shots. The spirit of this game. It was given to us by Native Americans and it wasn’t meant to be conservative. It’s about expression and playing this game for joy.”
Virginia’s 17-8 lead at the start of the fourth quarter allowed Coach Tiffany to empty the bench a little and get some younger or inexperienced guys some playing time. Michigan won the quarter 3-2, but it was obviously too little too late, as Virginia secured its first win of the 2024 season.
Aside from the strong performances from younger players and the dynamic Canadian duo (Boyden and Cormier), faceoffs were probably the biggest reason for UVA’s large win. Before the season, the faceoff X was a big question mark for the Hoos. With Petey LaSalla departing, it was unknown who would be the go-to guy. Gable Braun was certainly going to be in the mix, but was in street clothes for Saturday’s game and didn’t play. That didn’t seem to slow the Hoos down at all. Virginia finished Saturday 21 for 32 at the X (65.6%).
Anthony Ghobriel and Thomas Colucci did the bulk of the work for Virginia, going 15-23 (65.2%) and 6-8 (75.0%) respectively. Michigan’s Justin Wietfeldt is a strong faceoff man. In 2023, his 64.5% faceoff win-rate was ranked fourth nationally. Virginia’s success at the X against such strong competition is a promising sign. Ghobriel even added an assist on a pass to Shellenberger during a fastbreak.
“Justin Wietfeldt is a heck of a faceoff player who can kick start the offense too,” Tiffany said. “They like to have him play how we liked to have Petey play for us. So for us to win two-thirds of the faceoffs and take away their transition like that, huge performance by Anthony Ghobriel. Our wing play was exceptional. Our offense can score goals, but so can Michigan, so simple possession game giving us that possession.”
Overall it was a very well-rounded performance from the Hoos in the season opener. Michigan is a team that finished 2023 strong and had high expectations entering this season, so this win should give the Cavaliers a good confidence boost to start the year. Shellenberger didn’t have his best game, scoring just 2 points from 2 goals on 13 shots, but everyone around him stepped up and played well. Finally, Tiffany’s past teams have always been good at securing groundballs, and this team seems to be no different. Virginia picked up 44 ground balls compared to Michigan’s 31.
The Cavaliers go on the road next Saturday to take on Richmond.