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What We Learned From Virginia's Statement Win Over Notre Dame

By Aidan Baller,


Breaking down the key takeaways from UVA's strong showing in a 15-10 victory at No. 1 Notre Dame

The Cavaliers could not have responded better after a stinging overtime loss against Maryland, knocking off No. 1 Notre Dame on the road in a statement 15-10 victory . The Notre Dame-Virginia-Maryland trifecta is now complete. First, Notre Dame defeated Maryland in overtime on the road, then Maryland snuck past Virginia in overtime on the road, and this past Saturday, Virginia beat Notre Dame in South Bend. It’ll be interesting to see how the top three line up in the polls on Monday after the round-robin play.

On a cold, rainy and snowy day, Arlotta Stadium was still a frenzied environment that featured the Notre Dame football team screaming from the berm, but the Cavaliers stood tall to earn themselves their biggest win of the season.

Virginia will have little time to celebrate this victory as No. 4 Duke comes to Klöckner on Friday night for another ACC showdown. Before shifting our focus to that game, let’s break down the key takeaways from Virginia’s win against Notre Dame.

Shellenberger is a Tewaaraton favorite for a reason

“The ultimate quarterback,” said ESPN analyst Paul Carcaterra during the broadcast. Connor Shellenberger netted two goals and five assists against the Fighting Irish and was unstoppable. Guarded by All-American defenseman Chris Fake, Shellenberger dominated the matchup. Furthermore, Shellenberger’s ability to dodge with his eyes up proved effective against a strong and connected Notre Dame defense that struggled to keep track of Xander Dickson and Payton Cormier, who kept finding open space on the doorstep. After a tough performance against Maryland’s Ajax Zappitello, who limited Shellenberger to one goal and two assists, Shellenberger bounced back with the perfect response against the Fighting Irish and outdueled fellow Tewaaraton contender Pat Kavanagh.

Virginia’s defense was exceptional

The Velociraptors frustrated the Irish. Cade Saustad and Cole Kastner used their size and reach to jam passing lanes and prevent Pat and Chris Kavanagh from getting their hands free. Going into the game, the Irish averaged 16.83 goals per game, but were limited to just ten against Virginia. After the Kavanagh brothers connected for the opening goal, it seemed like it would be a long day for the Virginia defense. Surprisingly enough, the Kavanagh brothers only ended up combining for four goals, including just the one goal in the first quarter. The Cavalier defense will look to maintain that momentum against Brennan O'Neill and the Duke Blue Devils next week.

Petey LaSalla dominated the x

Petey LaSalla started the game 6/7 from the x, which was crucial to Virginia jumping out to a 5-1 lead. LaSalla finished 17/29 on draws which provided extra possessions for the Cavaliers, who capitalized by scoring their most goals against Notre Dame since 1994. Next week, LaSalla will face off against Duke’s Jake Naso, who has a 65.6 faceoff percentage this season. How LaSalla fares against Naso will be a key factor in the outcome of Friday's matchup with the Blue Devils.

Matthew Nunes looked much improved in between the pipes

Nunes posted 14 saves with a .583 save percentage, which was enough to help Virginia cruise past Notre Dame. Additionally, Nunes caused two turnovers and had many good passes on the clears against Notre Dame’s ride. Nunes did have one turnover as he tried to clear the ball himself, leading to a Notre Dame goal on the open net, but that was one of Nunes' very few mistakes on Saturday. Overall, Nunes rose to the occasion, a great sign for the sophomore netminder as Virginia continues to progress through ACC play.

The elite teams of college lacrosse are beginning to pull away

Virginia, Maryland, Notre Dame, Duke, and Cornell have begun to assert themselves as the top teams in college lacrosse. The talent level between these schools is very close, and I’d predict at least three of these teams are present on Championship weekend. The Cavaliers' win against the Irish has solidified their status as a championship contender and will help instill confidence in them as they still have to face Duke twice and Notre Dame once more this season.

Virginia (7-1, 1-0 ACC) will return to action on Friday at 5pm against Duke at Klöckner Stadium.

See more Virginia men's lacrosse news and content: Virginia Men's Lacrosse on Sports Illustrated

See more Virginia sports news and content: Virginia Cavaliers on Sports Illustrated

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