Virginia men’s lacrosse scored its seventh NCAA national championship Monday, 17-16, narrowly holding off Maryland with a last-second defensive stand to confirm the win. This is how the Cavs defended their title from 2019 and ascended back to the top of the sport.
Virginia Men’s Lacrosse Scores Seventh NCAA National Championship
The first quarter of the game consisted of unsure offenses trying to find their footing. It looked like this would be a highly-defensive game as both offenses failed to generate any sort of momentum during each teams’ respective opening possessions. Even with Virginia’s man-up opportunity, the game remained scoreless after the first four minutes. This changed quickly as Maryland attackman Daniel Maltz drove from X, sneaking one past Alex Rode to get things going for the Terrapins. Virginia soon retaliated off the faceoff as Matt Moore took a stepdown shot to tie the game up, 1-1. Maryland midfielder Kyle Long scored his only goal of the day, followed up by Cavalier faceoff specialist Petey Lasalla taking the next faceoff right down Main Street to knot it again, 2-2.
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With the game picking up, it was only a matter of time before Jared Bernhardt arrived on the scene as he had been quiet thus far. With the score even, he found himself behind the cage to deliver a perfect feed to Joshua Coffman coming downhill. After phenomenal stops by Terrapin goalie Logan McNaney, Bernhardt fed the ball for an assist yet again, this time attackman Logan Wisnauskas. All attention was on Bernhardt today as the Cavaliers consistently slid early to the senior, leaving time and room for other shooters up top. Maryland’s short-stick defensive midfielders would try their best defensively to contain both No. 4 Jeff Conner and No. 5 Matt Moore but with little luck. Conner punched one in to make it 4-3, and Virginia turned an aggressive ride to a goal from Connor Shellenberger to close the first quarter, 4-4.
Virginia pressed its foot on the gas and did not look back. Peyton Cormier sneaked one past the goalie assisted by Dox Aitken to start the second quarter. Midfielder of the Year Jared Conners caused a turnover and took it all the way down for a long-pole goal. Shellenberger scored an electric step-back fadeaway goal to put the Cavaliers up, 7-4. It was all Virginia as it continued to ride its high as Matt Moore netted yet another for the Cavs, finishing their four-goal run. Maryland faceoff specialist Luke Wierman swiftly won the draw and dished it off to Bernhardt, who finished it in the back of the cage and set the Maryland record for goals in a season at 70. The Terrapins needed this momentum boost. It really looked like Virginia was going to walk its way to the final whistle.
Although the Virginia defense was trying its best to contain Bernhardt, it wasn’t enough. He scored yet another goal, inching Maryland’s way back, 8-6. The next possession consisted of Maryland attackman Griffin Brown catching a contested ball right on the doorstep to finish with a Canadian shot on cage. The Cavaliers defensive midfield continued to apply the pressure, though, as it was consistently able to win contested groundballs. An extra pass to No. 24 Payton Cormier helped put the Cavaliers up, 9-7, heading into the half.
Wisnauskas came out hot out of the break. He opened the third quarter with an absolute precision shot on the top left of the cage. The game was a back-and-forth affair as Dox Aitken matched Wisnauskas’s energy, putting the Cavaliers up, 10-8. The Virginia offense played some of its best lacrosse of the year, with phenomenal ball movement to create a wide-open step down shot for Jeff Conner to score.
While the offense was clicking on all cylinders, the defense began to fall asleep. Wisnauskas kept coming up from X uncontested to bury the ball. The next possession saw Terp midfielder Roman Puglise take an open stepdown shot, rallying Maryland back. After a failed clear from Virginia, Wisnauskas put the ball in the back of the net yet again, this time pining the top-right corner. He set the tempo for the Terrapins as momentum was certainly in Maryland’s corner. The Terps crawled their way back to even the game again, 11-11.
The Cavaliers quickly changed the narrative. Cavalier midfielder Peter Garno sent a dangerous skip pass through the middle of the Terrapin defense to Matt Moore, who finished his dinner, starting the five-goal run for the Cavaliers. Virginia was shooting 12-of-15 at this point, so it continued to take smart shots on cage. Defense would come up big as Alex Rode made a huge save and pushed the pace on the clear to result in yet another goal, this time from Shellenberger. Matt Moore made an impressive falling goal from 13 yards out to make it 14-11 in Virginia’s favor heading into the final quarter of the NCAA DI men’s lacrosse national championship.
Shellenberger continued his dominance for the Cavaliers, taking it from behind the cage to cushion Virginia’s advantage. Not long after, Matt Moore bulled Maryland defenders behind the cage to increase his team’s lead, 16-11. The Terps couldn’t get anything going on offense, and their defense was struggling against the athleticism of the Cavaliers. Bernhardt was quiet during the second half, and it didn’t seem like he was coming back anytime soon.
But Wisnauskas filled Bernhardt’s void, scoring his fifth goal of the day. After a lackluster first half, faceoff specialist Wierman came up big in the fourth quarter. He truly kept the Terrapins in the game, winning faceoffs when it mattered most. Maltz succeeded on a fast break from a Bernhardt delivery after a clean faceoff win from Wierman.
Bubba Fairman brought the Terps within two scores after another faceoff win from Wierman with five minutes left in the game. Anthony Demaio sent a rowdy bouncer goal right past Alex Rode, and the Maryland bench exploded. The Terps were only a goal away from tying it up.
This one came down to the wire. Maryland has all the momentum in its corner to pull off the comeback, but its defense tripped a Cavalier on a clear, which led to Moore finding the cage yet again, painting the scoreboard with a 17-15 scoreline in favor of Virginia with three minutes remaining in the lacrosse season’s final hoorah.
Maryland cleared the ball down to Bernhardt, who took a quick shot that missed its target. The Terps had a man-up opportunity but couldn’t make it happen. Virginia’s defense held strong in the closing minutes. Bernhardt took a poor shot when it mattered most, and Virginia launched the ball down the field. Maryland cleared, though, and a step down goal from Demaio with 10 seconds to go pulled the Terps to within one, 17-16.
It all came down to this.
Wierman won a clean faceoff, and his team rejected the use of its remaining timeout so he could attempt a clear shot right down the fairway. But Rode stood tall, making one final save to keep the score in Virginia’s way and securing a seventh NCAA men’s lacrosse national title for the school.
Logan Wisnauskas: 5 goals, 1 assist
Jared Bernhardt: 2 goals, 3 assists
John Geppert: 4 caused turnovers
Connor Shellenberger: 4 goals, 2 assists
Matt Moore: 4 goals, 2 assists
Petey LaSalla: 56% faceoff (21-of-37), 1 goal, 1 assist, 11 ground balls