Saturday at the Carrier Dome, Virginia faced a shocked Syracuse team that entered the game losing four straight. The Cavaliers (10-3, 5-1 ACC) defeated the struggling Orange (4-9, 1-4 ACC), winning 21-15. Virginia won its 19th ACC regular season championship, the last being in 2019, when the team finally won the national championship.
Orange opened the scoring just over a minute into the game as star junior midfielder Tucker Dordevic found the back of the net, the first of his three goals in the afternoon. Virginia responded quickly, however, as sophomore forward Connor Shellenberger scored nine seconds later after prompting a turnover on the faceoff.
The next two goals were kicked in by senior midfielder Jeff Conner who found freshman striker Griffin Schutz for the opener and then Conner scored after beating his defender from behind the goal to carry the score at 3-1. Conner finished the game with four goals and three assists, his highest points tally this year.
Later in the first quarter, graduate midfielder Jack Peele cleared the ball off the defensive end and beat Syracuse goaltender, Virginia transfer and second Bobby Gavin to make it 5-1. Orange kept the score within striking distance in the first quarter by scoring two more goals to cut their deficit to three as the second quarter score was 6-3 Cavaliers.
Syracuse continued their run in the second quarter scoring two quick goals. Virginia was able to get on the board in the second quarter when graduate student forward Matt Moore found Conner behind the goal as Conner was able to step in on his shot and beat Gavin, making it 7-5.
Virginia started to open play after that goal, followed by a pick-and-roll game between Moore and junior forward Xander Dickson, who found the top right corner of the net to make it a three-goal game. The Cavaliers entered halftime with a 12-7 lead after a 6-2 run to close out the second quarter.
After an early Syracuse goal from freshman midfielder Carter Rice, Virginia continued their run in the second half, scoring six straight goals before the Orange could get back into the scoring column. The first goal of that run summed up Virginia’s day – after ducking down the right side of the field, Conner found Dickson on a cross pass, and he ripped an undershot that found the back of the net.
In the fourth quarter, the game was out of reach for the Orange, as the Cavaliers held the ball while many substitutes got playing time. Conner capped his incredible afternoon in the fourth quarter by beating his defender again behind the goal, bringing the score to 19-11. Syracuse scored five more goals in the final quarter, but that wouldn’t matter as the Cavaliers emerged victorious, with a 21-15 victory.
Virginia had no problem finding scoring opportunities on Saturday, a good sign considering its recent struggles against other ACC opponents. As the tournament draws near, they will need to keep playing selflessly to break down opposing defenses.
The Cavaliers return to Klöckner Stadium on Thursday night as they take on Lafayette on senior night. The game is scheduled for 6 p.m. and will be broadcast on ACC Network.