UVA Defense Smothers Georgetown as Cavaliers Head Back to Championship Weekend

PHOTO BY LEE WEISMANN / HOFSTRA ATHLETICS

Charlie Bertrand scored once during Virginia's 14-3 route of Georgetown.


HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. — Saturday’s NCAA quarterfinal made Georgetown coach Kevin Warne think he was in the middle of a movie.

And not in a good way.

Fourth-seeded Virginia’s defense dominated fifth-seeded Georgetown’s overmatched offense, and Connor Shellenberger scored six goals as the Cavaliers cruised into the semifinals with a 14-3 rout at Shuart Stadium.

“They are the longest defense we’ve played all year,” Warne marveled. “I feel like I’m in Jurassic Park with a bunch of velociraptors running around in front of the goal. They’re long, they’re athletic, they get to your hands and I thought they did a great job.”

The Cavaliers (12-4) will meet the winner of Saturday’s second quarterfinal between top-seeded North Carolina and unseeded Rutgers in next Saturday’s semifinals in East Hartford, Conn.

The theme of the day for Virginia was aggressiveness. The Cavaliers relentlessly attacked mismatches offered by a Georgetown defense that wasn’t always interested in sliding. They bottled up Tewaaraton finalist Jake Carraway, who was limited to an assist and five shots in his final college game.

And from the very start, they made it clear they were faster and more physical than the Hoyas (13-3), who fell in their first quarterfinal appearance since 2007.

“When [assistants] Sean Kirwan and Kip Turner and I came to Charlottesville five years ago, we talked about how that was going to be our mantra, playing fast and aggressive lacrosse at both ends of the field,” Virginia coach Lars Tiffany said. “I was really happy to see how we executed that plan today.”

The most important sequence of the day was arguably off the opening faceoff. Georgetown’s James Reilly, who entered the day having won 58.4 percent of his draws, suffered an apparent leg injury and was only able to attempt one more draw the rest of the game.

Georgetown cycled through four other faceoff options, but Virginia dominated possession on the way to a 16 of 21 day at the X. Petey LaSalla was 15-for-19 in his attempts.

“It’s tough to see your starting faceoff guy go down on the opening possession,” Carraway said. “He’s been dominant all season and given us possessions. To score the ball, you have to have the ball. Then when they take it and get a ton of possessions in a row, it forces the offense to get a little antsy. We probably had some turnovers we probably shouldn’t have.”

Added Warne: “I’m just not sure we were mentally ready to handle that. It was a big blow.”







Rather than sticking with individual matchups throughout, Virginia planned going in to rotate its defensive assignments. That meant Cole Kastner was initially responsible for marking Carraway, a 50-goal scorer, but Cade Saustad had some turns as well.

Just as impressively, Virginia bottled up the Georgetown midfield throughout, an echo of how the Cavaliers got better as the 2019 season went along and saved perhaps their best performance for the title game that Memorial Day against Yale.

“You see a lot of the same themes — getting to gloves, sliding hard, sliding on roll backs,” Virginia long pole Jared Conners said. “I definitely think it’s comparable. That was a dominant year for us by the end there with our defense, and we’re starting to see those same themes. You can also feel it in the chemistry on the field. You can compare the two. They’re pretty close.”

While Georgetown couldn’t get any traction, Virginia’s offense did more than enough with the opportunities it enjoyed in the first half. Shellenberger was in the middle of much of that, scoring five times before halftime after beginning the day with a career high of four goals.

Things were well in hand by the break, when Virginia led 10-1. Shellenberger later added a sixth goal, tying Doug Knight (1995 against Brown) and Mikey Herring (2019 against Robert Morris) for the most by a Cavalier in the postseason.

“Connor was fantastic today,” Tiffany said. “We know he can be this aggressive and go to the goal, but it’s sort of in Connor’s nature not to be this aggressive. Georgetown’s defense was challenging us. They were saying, ‘We’re not necessarily going to slide to everything. You’re going to have to run by us.’”

For Georgetown, it was a sobering finish to a year that included yet another breakthrough under Warne. The Hoyas went more than a decade without an NCAA tournament appearance, then won the Big East tournament in 2018 and 2019 before bowing out in the first round.

An 18-8 drubbing of Syracuse in the first round was both impressive and entirely reflective of the gap between the two programs, further cementing the Hoyas as a higher-end program.

Saturday, though, demonstrated Georgetown still has steps to take to match a program like Virginia when the most recent national champions are at their best.

“They were really good defensively,” Warne said. “They out-athleted us a lot, all over the field.”

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