I like UVA as a final 4 team with a legit shot at winning it all. Virginia lacrosse has been a dominant force since Lars Tiffany took over as head coach. 2023 won’t be any different because guys like Connor Shellenberger, Payton Cormier, Cole Kastner, Cade Saustad and Matthew Nunes are all back and eager to prove their early NCAA Tournament exit at the hands of Maryland was a one-off fluke.

Shellenberger, Cormier and Griffin Shutz will look to anchor the attack and could be more formidable than last years group that included Matt Moore. Jeff Conner and Xander Dickson will be called to anchor the first midfield unit, and guys like Evan Zinn, Truitt Sunderland and Pete Garno will be asked to fill out those first two lines. On defense, Kastner and Saustad are joined by Quentin Matsui, Grayson Sallade and Richmond Transfer Griffin Kology. Nunes is back in cage to try and improve in his sophomore season (and he wasn’t too bad as a freshman either).

  • They looked like a legit contender if you looked at their 11 wins last season, HOWEVER…
  • In their 4 losses, they barely looked like a ranked team losing badly to Maryland twice, getting handled by Richmond on the road and getting beat up by Duke on the road. 
  • But both the offense and defense looked rough in all 4 losses, struggling to score and get stops. 

AND DESPITE ALL OF THE ABOVE, I like their chances of advancing to the final 4 in 2023 because I believe they’ll be better at every position. 

Offensively I think that Virginia can be one of the most explosive and efficient offenses in the country.  Maybe not quite as filthy as Maryland was last season, but I would bet they’re capable of getting pretty close.

And I’m not crazy, so stay with me a minute here and I’ll lay out a solid argument for why UVA is going to remain one of the best 4 teams in the land in 2023 despite losing Matt Moore and some other key contributors.

Connor Shellenberger
Redshirt Junior, Attack

  • Perhaps the most complete player in college lacrosse.
  • 2021, 37g, 42a, 79p off 87 shots, 42.5% shooting, 34gb and 21to in 18 games
  • 2022, 32g, 44a, 76p off 89 shots, 36% shooting, 24gb, 22to in 16 games
  • In that 2021 season, won a national title over Maryland, scored 4g, 2a off 7 shots with 2gbs
  • In 2022, lost to Maryland in the NCAA quarterfinals, no points off 5 shots. ONLY GAME ALL SEASON HE FINISHED WITH LESS THAN 3 POINTS.
  • Career numbers, 69g, 86a, 155p off 176 shots, 39.2% shooting, 58gbs, 43tos

Shellenberger Player Attributes

  • Has almost no weakness to his game.
  • Great dodger, doesn’t beat you with blinding speed, but has next level IQ and field awareness and knows when to dodge or die as well as how to poke and prod a defense until it cracks.
  • Excellent shooter, can bring smoke (albeit not going to win fastest shot in the ncaa), but his accuracy, quick release and ability to find space (both with the ball and without) are top notch.
  • Great in transition as both a feeder and finisher. Give him any situation where a defense isn’t set, whether it be a quick restart or a fast break, he will make the defense pay by “taking what they give him”.
  • Deadly as an initiator from X.  Will spot and feed anyone that is open on the crease or wings as he is playing behind GLE and at X.

Payton Cormier
Senior, Attack

  • Shellenberger to Cormier will be too much for teams.
  • Not that Cormier can’t create offense on his own, he can and using his size he can dodge from the left wing into the middle of the defense and make it look easy.
  • But when teamed up with Shelly, Cormier is free to find the soft spots all over the field (particularly the left wing, low and high crease areas) and feast until he’s fat and sassy.
  • 2021, 45g, 8a, 53p off 110 shots, 40.9% shooting, 8 man up goals, 22gbs, 22tos
  • 2022, 50g, 10a, 60p off 122 shots, 41% shooting, 3 man up goals, 33gbs, 21tos.
  • In 2021, had 2 goals in the National Championship win over Maryland off just 2 shots.
  • In 2022, had 2 goals and a dish off 3 shots in UVA’s loss in the Quarterfinals. 

Cormier Player Attributes

  • Absolute beast of a finisher.  Goalies consider him a monster and despite playing him.
  • One of the best shooters in the sport at all levels, brings the heat, total smoke show, but has the finesse of a ballerina, if said ballerina was 6’ 2” and 230 pounds.
  • You have to respect him any time he’s camping out on the back-side, either on the left wing or hanging out top when the ball is at X.
  • You also have to keep constant track of him as a cutter, despite his size, he’s pesky off ball and is 100% willing to cut high low, back-cut opposite side of crease and so on.
  • Not quite Mac O’Keefe off ball in terms of getting open, but has a high IQ regardless and is very good at finding time and room.
  • Can also beat you carrying the rock, primarily winning the high side on wing dodges into the middle.

So to be clear, the Shelly to Cormier connection is going to be bonkers in 2023 and they will for sure be one of the top 3 “dynamic duo’s” in college lacrosse.


Xander Dickson
Redshirt Senior, Midfield/Attack

  • Dickson has always been talented, but due to a loaded roster was only UVA’s 9th leading scorer in 2021.
  • 2021, 10g, 10a, 20p off 24 shots and 41.3% shooting, 15gbs, 11tos
  • Saw a huge bump in both burn and production in 2022 and ended up UVA’s 4th leading scorer (behind Shelly, Cormier and Moore).  Even frog jumped Jeff Conner.
  • 2022, 31g, 8a, 39p off 75 shots and 41.3% shooting, 20gbs, 15tos in 16 games (14 starts on the 1st line midfield).
  • Very efficient when carrying the ball and not a huge turnover risk so long as he doesn’t “over dodge”.
  • A more proficient feeder than his 2022 stats would indicate, but the makeup of last years team had him playing a ton off ball and he excelled.
  • Make no mistake though, he can carry the rock if called upon and generate offense for both himself and his teammates.
  • His shooting percentage on his career is 43.7% which is incredible. Credit is IQ and ability to get open in front of the crease and fading the backside as guys are dodging on wings and from X.

Jeff Conner
Graduate Student, Midfield

  • Yet another triple threat for this offense, a “can do anything he’s asked offensively” type midfielder.
  • 2021, 14g, 8a, 22 points off 30 shots and 46.7% shooting, 23gbs and 4tos.
  • 2022, 14g, 18a, 32p off 43 shots and 32.6% shooting, 14gbs, and 11tos.
  • Was called upon to carry the rock quite a bit more in 2022 after UVA lost Dox Aitken to graduation and he delivered.
  • Operated a ton behind the cage and primarily dodges and was one of UVA’s top initiators of offense in 2022.
  • Took a bit of time to get him some confidence as he got used to the Cavs needing to lean on him a bit more.
  • First 6 games = 9 points (1.5 points per game)
  • Final 7 games = 23 points (3.2 points per game)
  • NOTE, he missed the Towson, Cuse & Hopkins games last year before returning, so he may have had a nagging injury early in the season and only got hot as he got healthy.

Griffin Shutz
Sophomore, Attack

  • This guy is a damn beast at 6’3” and 220 pounds.  A man among boys whether he runs from mid or attack.  I’ve heard it looks like he may be running some attack so far this fall.
  • 2022, 23g, 7a, 30p off 67 shots and 34.3% shooting, 15gbs, 12tos
  • Plays as you would expect a monster with his frame to play.
  • Despite his size, one of the more athletic guys on the field, big brain, quality stick and canon of a shot.
  • Had at least a point in all but 1 game last season, started 15 of 16 games at midfield.
  • Based on his upside and some fall action it looks like Schutz is set up for that 3rd attack spot and will split time attacking from wings and X, probably playing a lot of 2-man with Shellenberger. 

Peter Garno
Senior, Midfield

  • Guy can let it rip from outside.
  • Got more shots in 2021 and finished far more effectively.
  • 2021, 22g, 3a off 58 shots and 37.9 shooting, 13 turnovers despite limited minutes.
  • 2022, 7g, 1a, 8p off 45 shots and 15.6% shooting, couldn’t hit the cage.
  • Will have to go back to smoking balls past goalies as he did in 21 if he hopes to get himself some solid reps with the 2nd midfield, could even see 1st midfield time depending on how things play out this fall, but I peg him as a man up and/or second mid line contributor.

Thomas McConvey (Transfer From Vermont)
Graduate Student, Midfield

  • A goal hawk that has shot the ball lights out over the first 3.5 years of his career.
  • 2021, 37g, 16a, 53p off 101 shots and 36.6% shooting, 21gbs, 20tos
  • 2022, 60g, 14a, 74p off 144 shots and 41.7% shooting, 7 man up goals, 15gbs and 23tos.
  • Dude can straight up finish the rock.
  • Excellent dodger from out top, gets into the middle of the field and finds time and room as well as any midfielder in the country.
  • Excellent in the two man game and I expect he’ll see time on either the first or second midfield lines.  I don’t see a situation where he doesn’t contribute at a solid level.
  • It was mentioned in an IL piece that he looks big compared to Cormier which is good news for UVA. 

Others that could factor

  • Thomas Mencke started in that left attack spot in UVA’s first fall scrimmage for an injured Cormier. He didn’t play in 2022 but is a former #7 overall recruit by IL.
  • Truit Sunderland, #2 on the IL Power 100. Knowing how UVA has handled rosters crowded with offensive talent, I’d expect to see Sunderland get some runs at midfield, possibly with the second line. 
  • Evan Zinn (13p) & Patrick McIntosh (11p), both played in all 16 games and put up more points than Garno, but both took less shots. 

Defensively, UVA was outside the top 40 in terms of “scoring” but they were 16th in forced turnovers.  I’ve said it a lot, they like to play FAST AND LOOSE on defense, they go after you even where they risk getting beat and they want to take your candy and get the ball upfield in transition.

BETTER THOUGH, they didn’t really lose anyone on the defensive side of the field.  Returning…

Cole Kastner
Junior, Defense

  • UVA’s resident “take away guy” and slowly became one of UVA’s most dependable cover guys by the end of 2022.
  • 32 forced turnovers in 2022 and scored 2 goals
  • Had 3 games with 4 or more (4 vs Towson & Cuse and 5 vs Hopkins, all back-to-back-to-back).
  • Had 2 takeaways in each of UVA’s final two games, 2 vs Brown in the NCAA first round and 2 vs Maryland in the quarters.

Cade Saustad
Redshirt Senior, Defense

  • Big, rangy defender, team captain and intense and wants to guard every teams best attackman.
  • 17 forced turnovers in 2022 and had 1 assist.
  • Brings confidence, fire and a “lead by example” kind of attitude to the UVA defense and will be one of the reasons they improve on their numbers from last season.

Quentin Matsui
Senior, Defense

  • Not much flash out of Matsui, but he’s a very good on ball defender, knows this system well and will make sure everyone else is on the same page.
  • 12 forced turnovers in 2022 and keeping up with his “no flash” had no points and just a single shot.
  • His MO is “don’t let his guy score” and “get the ball back to the offense as soon as possible”.

Griffin Kology (D/Transfer from Richmond & Kyle’s brother)
Sophomore, Defense

  • Started all but the first game of the year for Richmond as a freshman.
  • Forced 21 caused turnovers last season and picked up 21 gbs.
  • Picked up a career high 6gbs and forced a turnover in Richmonds win over UVA on April 2nd.
  • Adds depth to an already solid group of long poles.

Grayson Sallade
Graduate Student, SSDM

  • Very good on-ball defender as a short stick often drawing some pretty touch assignments and doing a very good job neutralizing opposing teams 2nd option at midfield.
  • GB hawk, mature, great communicator, he’ll be a huge asset on UVA’s defensive midfield in 2023.
  • In 2022, 29gbs, 8 forced turnovers
  • 3 assists

Scott Bower & Ben Wayer will both chip on on defense, both getting a bunch of time last year and performing well.

Matthew Nunes
Sophomore, Goalie

Quick hands, solid footwork and enough talent to serve him well as he gets on with his sophomore campaign.

  • 11-4 in cage for the Cavs as a freshman.
  • .498 save percentage playing in the high powered ACC which isn’t really that bad considering the aggressive “take lots of chances’ ‘ style of defense that UVA employs.

Last but certainly not least… 

Petey Fucking LaSalla
Graduate Student, Faceoff

  • One of the premier face off men in the country and one of my personal favorite players overall. 
  • A true offensive threat attacking the cage from the face off dot. 
  • 2021, 10g, 7a, 17 points as a face off guy, 62.4 win percentage. 
  • 2022, 8g, 2a, 10p with a 63.3 win percentage at the dot. 
  • A true All American bad ass. 
  • If he stays healthy, he can take a great deal of pressure off the UVA defense and their offense should be efficient enough that UVA will easily get to 10 regular season wins assuming they play a 14 game schedule. 


  • Tough to tell, defensively they were missing Sallade, Sausted & Matsui, Kollogy ate up one of those starting spots down low, so defensively, they were playing with an inexperienced group.
  • Offensively they were missing Cormier, McConvey & others, and Mencke and some of the other guys off the bench filled in and didn’t play bad.

BUT TO BE CERTAIN, Virginia and Maryland are built different.

  • They don’t need to necessarily “re-load” because their rosters are already so stacked, but both teams have masterfully worked the transfer portal adding depth at key spots keeping these two teams at the top of the pack.
  • If their schedule makeup is similar to last season, I fully expect another 5-1 (maybe 4-2) record in the ACC and they won’t drop more than 2 or 3 non-conference matchups leading into the tournament.
  • HOT TAKE, I think we could see a 12-2 UVA heading into the NCAA tournament (last season they were 11-3.  Maybe that isn’t such a hot take considering I feel UVA will be an improved team from last year overall.
  • I think they’ll gel a bit better, I think that Shutz will actually fill that 3rd attack role better than Matt Moore did last season as he’ll “play into the system” a bit more, higher shooting percentage (Moore’s was terrible) and so on.

Listen to the audio verison…

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