Saturday Wrap: Cormier, Shellenberger Flash Firepower in UVA Blowout Win


Payton Cormier tallied six goals in Virginia's 20-11 season-opening win over Towson.

Payton Cormier wasn’t able to contribute to the 2019 Virginia men’s lacrosse team — one that made a magical run to the NCAA title on Memorial Day at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia.

The Cavaliers freshman sat out the entire year with a torn ACL suffered in the fall of 2018. He watched as names like Michael Kraus, Dox Aitken, Matt Moore and Ian Laviano led an offense that came alive in May.

Connor Shellenberger witnessed the 2019 run from afar, finishing out his high school career at St. Anne’s Belfield (Va.) as the top recruit in the country committed to Lars Tiffany’s program. 

Charlie Bertrand was in the Boston area that weekend, capping his Division II career with four goals and three assists to lead Merrimack to the national championship.

Almost two years have passed since Virginia won it all, and although many of the same names from 2019 expect to contribute this season — Aitken, Moore and Laviano all returned for the 2021 season — Saturday showcased a new wave of talent. A talented trio that totaled six combined career games for the Cavaliers provided a spark in a 20-11 season-opening win over Towson at Klockner Stadium.

Dox Aitken, who enrolled at Villanova in the fall with the hopes of playing football but returned to Charlottesville in January, played sparingly, trying to get back into game shape. Moore, a key piece of the Virginia attack the last three seasons, was unavailable. Laviano took four shots, but otherwise did not factor into the box score.

Instead, it was Cormier, Shellenberger and Bertrand who led the Virginia offense with a combined 14 goals and six assists. 

Cormier, who was Virginia’s third-leading scorer in an abbreviated 2020 season, dropped six goals and an assist to help his team explode out of a slow start and an early deficit. His unrelenting dodges and spot shooting had Quint Kessenich drawing comparisons to Chris Cloutier on ACC Network.

Shellenberger, who redshirted the 2020 campaign, made his collegiate debut and scored the Cavaliers’ first goal of the season. He looked comfortable in an offense that spread the wealth throughout the day, finishing with four goals in his first game.

“As a fan of Virginia lacrosse and a fan of Charlottesville lacrosse, to see Connor Shellenberger, the boy who grew up here and had been dreaming of this moment," Tiffany said. "It’s so exciting to see him play at such a high level.”

Towson answered with four of five goals led by Maryland transfer James Avanzato, who led the Tigers’ offense. Cormier’s hat trick fueled a seven-goal run that put Virginia ahead 9-4 late in the second quarter. 

The sophomore added two more goals in a 5-1 run that vaulted the Cavaliers to a 14-5 lead in the third quarter. Bertrand and Cormier combined for three straight third-quarter goals to push the lead to 18-7 entering the fourth, where Virginia’s reserves covered much of the remaining minutes.

Bertrand, who tallied 23 points with Merrimack in his six games with the Warriors at the Division I level last year, decided to transfer to Virginia after being granted an extra year of eligibility following the COVID-19 cancellation. He used his physicality and quick cutting from x to score four goals and added two assists in the effort.

Towson played without coach Shawn Nadelen, who was suspended two games after the program self-reported compliance violations to the NCAA. The Tigers started strong, but could not find an answer of offense, and watched as the Virginia attack unit clicked on all cylinders.

Brody McLean led the Towson effort with three goals and two assists, followed by Avanzato’s three goals. Garrett Zungailia was active on defense with nine ground balls.

Utah Gets Win No. 1

Friday afternoon, Utah men’s lacrosse assistant and PLL pro Adam Ghitelman tweeted a video of the Utes practicing on a field adjacent to Interstate 64 in downtown Louisville. The video went viral in the lacrosse community and served as a testament to coach Brian Holman and his Utah program’s commitment to preparation after a promising start in a loss last weekend.

Utah took the field under much better conditions on Saturday afternoon, battling a Bellarmine team fresh off a season-opening win last weekend. The Utes picked up their first win of the 2021 season, fueled by four goals from freshman attackman Jordan Hyde’s four goals and freshman Tyler Bradbury’s hat trick.

Bradbury got his team started early and kickstarted a run that put Utah up 3-1 late in the first quarter. He added another goal in the second quarter to help the Utes take a 5-3 lead at the break despite being outshot 15-12.

Kyle Playsted (one goal, one assist) helped Bellarmine with a three-goal run through the end of the third and into the fourth quarter to pull into a 6-6 tie. Utah pulled away thanks to two Hyde goal’s in a little over 90 seconds, part of a four-goal run to make it 10-6 with 5:09 left.

Utah faceoff man Cole Brams boosted the effort, going 15-for-22 on the day.

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