2023 NCAA Lacrosse Rankings: No. 1 Virginia (Men)


Petey LaSalla is a rugged presence who won 59.7 percent of faceoffs last year.

The 2023 college lacrosse season is almost here. As is our annual tradition, we’re featuring every team ranked in the Nike/USA Lacrosse Preseason Top 20.

Check back to USALaxMagazine.com each weekday this month for new previews, scouting reports and rival analysis.


2022 Record: 12-4 (5-1 ACC)
Final Ranking (2022): No. 3
Coach: Lars Tiffany


Cole Kastner, D, Jr.

A second-team All-America selection and Virginia’s first ACC defensive player of the year since 2002, Kastner has developed into one of the country’s most effective defensemen — and that’s after already being one of the most imposing at 6-foot-7. He’ll continue to team with Cade Saustad (a 6-foot-5 redshirt senior) on one of Division I’s most physical close defenses.

Petey LaSalla, FO, Gr.

In addition to his reliable play at the X (59.7 percent last year) and ability to generate offense (eight goals in 2022), LaSalla is also a rugged presence. “He’s just a warrior,” Tiffany said. “There’s been multiple times that he’s had an injury, and for most of the rest of us, we’d be missing the next game, and somehow, some way that hamstring which usually takes three weeks heals in six days. That ankle sprain, whatever it is, that guy — there’s almost no one tougher.”

Connor Shellenberger, A, R-Jr.

The follow up to a star turn in the 2021 NCAA tournament was plenty impressive — 32 goals, 44 assists and 10 games with at least five points. His postseason magic ran out in last year’s NCAA quarterfinals against Maryland when he was held without a point for the first time in his career, but Shellenberger is one of the sport’s biggest knowns entering 2023.


Griffin Kology, D, So. (Richmond)

The Richmond transfer made the move up Interstate 64 and is following the path of older brother Kyle, who was a regular presence on defense for the Cavaliers’ 2019 and 2021 national title teams. He’s set to compete for the third starting spot on close defense with senior Quentin Matsui.

Thomas McConvey, M, Gr. (Vermont)

Fresh off a 60-goal season and back-to-back NCAA tournament appearances at Vermont, McConvey will instantly be plugged into Virginia’s starting midfield. The Canadian was the No. 1 pick in the NLL Draft in September, and he’s a near-certainty to put his experience in the two-man game on the left side of the field with longtime friend (and current Virginia attackman) Payton Cormier to good use.

Ricky Miezan, M, Gr. (Stanford)

This year’s most notable case of the rich getting richer involved Miezan — a former No. 1 overall lacrosse recruit who spent the last five years playing linebacker at Stanford — signing to play for Virginia on Dec. 21. How much he sees the field remains to be seen, but he’s likely to spend most of his time as an offensive midfielder this spring.

Truitt Sunderland, A, Fr.

Fresh off a 47-goal, 45-assist senior season at Baltimore’s Calvert Hall, Sunderland gives the Virginia staff something to think about even with a variety of experienced players in the fold. “He’s really crafty,” Tiffany said. “He plays a lot like the old No. 3, Ian Laviano — cuts through the crease, finds space, rides hard.” He’s a future star for the Cavaliers, though the future could arrive a bit early.

Joey Terenzi, M, Fr.

Like Sunderland, Terenzi should be able to work his way onto the field quickly after arriving as a heralded freshman. Tiffany says he has “a Ryan Conrad style of play,” which means Virginia — with its aggressive approach and willingness to deploy two-way midfielders — is an ideal landing spot for his talents.


Graduations: Matt Moore, A; Jack Peele, SSDM; Regan Quinn, M
Transfers: Jack Simmons, M (Notre Dame)


What’s the response?

It feels weird to think of Virginia’s 12-4 season as a bad thing. It shared the ACC regular season title, went undefeated at home and won an NCAA tournament game at Brown.

But for a program that had won the last two NCAA tournaments (2019 and 2021), a quarterfinal exit was a bit jarring. Even more befuddling? An average margin of defeat of 8.25 goals in the Cavaliers’ four losses.

“The disappointment that we have was that when we did lose, it was emphatic,” Tiffany said. “It wasn’t even close. Where was the fight back? Where was the desperation? It seemed like once we got down by four or five goals, it kept sliding the wrong way. That’s not characteristic of the teams in the years previous when we were well-known for making comebacks.”

Virginia played only one game decided by less than four goals — an 11-10 defeat of High Point in the season’s second game — which led to a season largely devoid of defining late-game moments. How the Cavaliers handle close games is another part of the response that will be curious to see in 2023.

Choosing an offensive alignment.

For a team with few significant losses on offense besides Matt Moore, Virginia is oddly unsettled coming out of the fall. Tiffany puzzled over the lack of firm answers in early December, wondering which of Payton Cormier (50 G, 10 A), Xander Dickson (31 G, 8 A) and Griffin Schutz (23 G, 7 A) would play midfield.

There might be some logic in the status quo. Dickson is an exceptional rider — an especially valued trait in Charlottesville — and Virginia’s inability to win one-on-one matchups in its NCAA quarterfinal loss to Maryland hints at the need to pack as much punch as possible into the midfield. Now a sophomore, Schutz should provide that.

“We see teams slide and they play us and they try not to slide,” Tiffany said. “Maryland proved they could beat us without sliding in Columbus, Ohio. Others have seen that when you slide to Virginia, we have more success. We have to continue to prove we can run by you, and that’s what Schutz from the top down does.”

The next step for Matthew Nunes.

In the offseason, someone mentioned to Tiffany how a few games had gotten away from the Cavaliers, then brought up having a freshman goalie start all but one game.

“I said, ‘Stop right there. It had nothing to do with a freshman in the goal,’” Tiffany said. “That’s a really nice scapegoat answer, but that is not the truth. Matt Nunes gave us incredible consistency in the goal for a first year. He’s a gamer. He has an incredible mindset of moving on to the next play. He’s so driven. He’s out there all the time getting extra shots. He loves it.”

Nunes posted a .498 save percentage in his debut season, a number that rises to a more palatable .523 when his two outings against Maryland are removed. Still, there is room for improvement, and the Virginia staff thinks it is coming this spring.


“Super talented. Did well with a couple transfers and the incoming class as well. They’re as talented as anybody in the country and Lars does a great job with that group. It’s hard not to think that they’re in the top couple teams in the country, easily.”



The Hoos will have to replace Matt Moore and as the guy with the second-best individual player efficiency rating on the team, and that will be no small feat. But the thing that you go back to when looking at their stats is how little any given player matters to their success. Four different Cavaliers took at least 10 percent of their shots. But the offense isn’t the issue here; of UVA’s four worst defensive performances, three were losses.

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