Virginia Lacrosse Surges Out Of Gates

Virginia Cavaliers
The Hoos are off to a 6-0 start for the second straight season. ~ Photo by Matt Riley/Virginia Athletics Media Relations

The Virginia men’s lacrosse team jumped out to a 6-0 start this season with wins against Harvard, Ohio State, and Johns Hopkins coming against ranked opponents. It’s the second straight season with a fast start for the Hoos.

With a matchup between No. 1 UVA and No. 3 Maryland up next in a HEADstrong Foundation game, it’s a great checkpoint for where the Wahoos stand before ACC play starts later this month.

Virginia Offense Clicking

The first thing to note about the start of the Cavaliers’ season is how the offense has started. Through its first six games, Virginia is averaging 20.17 goals per game. Not only do the Hoos lead the nation in this category, but this is the best start the offense has had since coach Lars Tiffany has arrived.

Even after losing contributors like Matt Moore, who holds the UVA single-season points record, the unit has improved. A reason for this is the team’s ability to share the ball as Virginia leads the nation in assists per game with 13.33. While there are obvious stars like Connor Shellenberger and Xander Dickson, the ball movement has allowed other players to contribute and come into their roles early in the season. Ultimately this leads to a more efficient and effective offense. Shellenberger, by the way, sets everyone up for better shots – he has 24 assists this season, meaning he has dished out a helper on nearly 20% of the team’s 121 goals!

Depth From Youth

A second thing worth mentioning is the depth on the roster and the ability of younger or inexperienced guys to have an impact, particularly Truitt Sunderland and Patrick McIntosh.

Obviously there were lots of eyes on the Sunderland, a freshman, at the start of the season. The attackman from Calvert Hall in Baltimore was the No. 2 incoming freshman according to Inside Lacrosse. Fans can already see his potential as he has contributed 9 points (4 goals, 5 assists) in his first 6 collegiate games.

McIntosh is someone who may not have been on as many people’s radars to start the year, but he has definitely taken advantage of his time on the field. Senior Payton Cormier started the season on a tear, notching 18 goals through the first 4 games. Unfortunately, an injury has had him sidelined since the Richmond contest. There were questions regarding who would get the start in place of Cormier in a competitive matchup against Johns Hopkins. Ultimately, Coach Tiffany gave the start to McIntosh. In his first career start, the junior attackman scored 6 goals on just 7 shots. He followed up his tremendous performance with 2 more goals in his second start against Towson. McIntosh is a perfect example of the depth that Virginia has. After not starting for over two years, he has been able to come in for the injured Cormier and help the offense keep rolling.

Groundballs Still A Big Factor

One stat that Virginia has consistently dominated for years now is ground balls. The Hoos averaged 38.1 in 2022, 41.9 in 2021, 43.3 in the shortened 2020 season, and 41.6 in 2019.

The 2023 season is no different so far as the Cavaliers’ 42.50 ground balls per game average leads the nation. Coach Tiffany has always stressed the importance of ground balls. The 2019 and 2021 National Championship teams both led the country in this category. If the Hoos are hoping to make another Memorial Day Weekend run, ground balls will play a pivotal role in getting there. Of note with the Terps up next, Maryland won the category 45-30 when it eliminated UVA from the 2022 NCAA Tournament last spring.

Virginia At Home

Finally, Virginia is no stranger to starting a season 6-0. Just one year ago the Hoos were in the exact same position before facing Maryland