Cavs Oust Hoyas, Return to Championship Weekend After One-Year Hiatus


Connor Shellenberger's six goals and four assists paced Virginia on Saturday against Georgetown.

ALBANY, N.Y. — Virginia redshirt junior Connor Shellenberger is back to his record-setting self. And that was a most unwelcome development for Georgetown in the NCAA quarterfinals.


Two years after dropping a half-dozen goals on the Hoyas during the Cavaliers’ run to the national title, Shellenberger uncorked another six goals plus four assists in a 17-14 victory Saturday at Casey Stadium.

“If you look at the 10 points Connor got, it’s not like he was breaking Will Bowen down,” Virginia coach Lars Tiffany said. “This was Connor playing two-man game and getting switches or taking advantage of Petey LaSalla coming down on a fast break. Connor played a really smart game. He didn’t get into a wrestling match — King Kong vs. Godzilla, Connor Shellenberger vs. Will Bowen. That won’t go so well. Connor kept moving off ball and finding his spots.”

Xander Dickson added two goals and two assists for second-seeded Virginia (13-3), which will make its third semifinal appearance since 2019 and its 25th overall. The Cavaliers will face either third-seeded Notre Dame (11-2) or sixth-seeded Johns Hopkins (12-5) next Saturday in Philadelphia.

Shellenberger tied Virginia’s NCAA tournament record for points in a game, originally set by Conor Gill with a one-goal, nine-assist outing against Cornell in the 2002 quarterfinals.

“He’s a great player,” Georgetown coach Kevin Warne said of the two-time Tewaaraton finalist. “He’s fantastic. And at some point, he will graduate.”

Not soon enough for the Hoyas (13-4), who saw their school-record 13-game winning streak snapped despite Brian Minicus’ four-goal game. Georgetown has lost in nine consecutive trips to the quarterfinals, a streak that began in 2000.

Four of those stumbles have come against Virginia, the first three of which — in 2003, 2006 and 2021 — were intermediate steps on the Cavaliers’ march to a national title.

Virginia still has work to do, but at least it doesn’t have the sour feeling of getting routed a step shy of Memorial Day Weekend like it did last year.

“You have a greater appreciation for it,” Shellenberger said. “Freshman year, all the sudden you win four games, and you’re national champions and you think it’s really easy and it’s going to be like that every year. You lose by 10 goals last year, and you realize how you can’t take it for granted and how much you have to appreciate the moment.”

There was a lot for the Cavaliers to savor about the start of the game, as Shellenberger scored twice in the first 16 seconds and needed a little more than four minutes to complete a hat trick as Virginia surged to a 5-2 lead.

Yet with the Cavaliers especially concerned with the outside shooting of Georgetown’s Graham Bundy Jr. and Tucker Dordevic, the Hoyas’ multifaceted offense found a way to prevent a rout like the 14-3 loss to the Cavaliers two years ago. Minicus simply ran by the likes of Cole Kastner and Cade Saustad, the last of his goals knotting it at 10 early in the third quarter.

It was the last time Virginia failed to contain him, having decided at halftime to revert back to its usual defensive approach of maintaining a tight control center and daring the Hoyas to bomb away.

“We made a couple adjustments here and there, packed it in a little bit more and made sure our timing on the slides were better and therefore created less offense for them,” Kastner said. “It was there the whole time. I definitely messed up a few times. Stuff happens out there, but I was glad we could make those adjustments and fly around.”

With Virginia finally getting a handle on Georgetown’s offense, the Cavaliers put things away in the third quarter. Payton Cormier finished a Shellenberger feed with 8:54 to go in the quarter to secure the lead for good at 12-11, and Patrick McIntosh, Noah Chizmar and Peter Garno all scored before the period was through to stretch the lead to four.

Georgetown wouldn’t score back-to-back goals again until the final 80 seconds.

“When they got on their run in the third quarter, that just didn’t help,” Warne said. “We just couldn’t stop them.”

It concluded a most unusual season for the Hoyas. Coming off a stunning first-round ouster against Delaware last season, the transfer-bolstered Hoyas were regarded as a national title contender — only to lose their first three games.

Saturday’s loss was their first since February 25. In between, Dordevic set Georgetown’s single-season goals record (65) and the Hoyas rolled through the Big East, including a fifth consecutive conference tournament title.

The program’s first trip to the semifinals since 1999, however, remains elusive.

“Probably in the present you go, ‘Hey, could we make it the extra step?’” Warne said. “But looking over the past five years, I’m very pleased with where the program is. Could we get better? Absolutely. I think at the same time, we have a lot of great kids in our program, and I have a great boss that supports the heck out of me. We’ll just keep plugging away.”

So will Virginia for another week, with Shellenberger seemingly as healthy and dangerous as he’s been all season. He has eight goals and eight assists in the tournament’s first two games and has 12 goals and 13 assists in his last four outings.

The attackman surged up Virginia’s postseason record book Saturday. The six goals tied a program record he already shared with Doug Knight (1996), Mikey Herring (2019) and Payton Cormier (last week against Richmond). His 26 goals and 22 assists both rank fourth in the Cavaliers’ long NCAA tournament history. He checks in at third in points (48), behind only Steele Stanwick (58) and Tim Whitely (53).

And he’ll play on, unlike a year ago when he endured a very different postseason experience — sitting at home on the final weekend of the season.

“I think you realize leading into this game that maybe the quarterfinal is the most stressful game just because you want to get to the final four and have the whole experience,” Shellenberger said. “Then once you get there, you just have to win two games.”

Easier said than done, of course. But with more records in sight, Shellenberger and the sizzling Cavaliers can’t be counted out in their semifinal return after a one-year hiatus.


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