Connor Shellenberger, a native of Charlottesville, is entering his second season at Virginia after redshirting his freshman season with the Cavaliers. The former No. 1 overall recruit in the nation graduated from local St. Anne’s-Belfield School in 2019 and will be part of an explosive offense returning to the men’s lacrosse program.
Q: Your first year on Grounds was unique. Head coach Lars Tiffany gave you the option to redshirt the 2020 season, which then eventually was canceled due to COVID-19. Encompassing the entire 2019-20 academic school year, where did you see yourself grow the most in the transition to college?
Shellenberger: The biggest leap for me was gaining a better understanding of who I was and the people around me. There is so much change that comes with the transition from high school to college that you need people around you who are going to support you, but also tell you when you are making mistakes. The more I opened up to those people, the more comfortable I felt because I knew I could trust them and they had my back.
Q: You call Charlottesville your home. Do you remember the first time you went to a Virginia men’s lacrosse game at Klöckner Stadium? What do you remember about that experience?
Shellenberger: The first game I remember going to was the seven-overtime game against Maryland in 2009. That particular day it was rainy, but I remember there being a good crowd and everyone staying until the end. My favorites games growing up were from 2010-2012 when Duke, Syracuse and Johns Hopkins came to town and Klöckner was packed.
Q: Do you have a favorite Virginia men’s lacrosse player from your youth that you loved to watch?
Shellenberger: Steele Stanwick was definitely my favorite player growing up. I remember in elementary school my teacher had him sign one of my spelling tests and I thought it was the coolest thing.
Q: What was it about Coach Tiffany and the staff that convinced you most about staying home to attend college and play lacrosse?
Shellenberger: A story I always tell people when they ask me about the coaching staff is, I was sitting in my basement watching the 2016 Final Four and specifically the Brown versus Maryland game. I remember telling my parents I wish I could play in a system like the one Coach Tiffany and his staff were running at Brown. Then it just so happened that it became a possibility a couple months later.
Q: Were there any particular upperclassmen from this past year that you learned the most from during the transition from high school into the UVA men’s lacrosse program?
Shellenberger: I think I took pieces from each one of them, but in particular the way Ryan Lamb helped me out as a young guy and made me feel comfortable. As well as Michael Kraus whose leadership and work ethic were definitely something to take note of.
Q: Virginia’s NCAA Tournament run last year has been replayed a lot over the last few months. Have you watched at all and as a graduating high school senior in 2019, what thoughts and emotions did you experience knowing you were joining the program in few short months?
Shellenberger: I found myself watching a lot of the games from last year as they were replayed on ESPN. Watching them gave me mixed emotions because obviously it was an incredible run and it motivates you to want to get there, however, it also makes you a little sad knowing that was what you were supposed to be trying to accomplish instead of sitting on your couch. Joining the national champs was definitely a little intimidating, but also exciting because you knew the program was heading in the right direction.
Q: During the current pandemic, what activity have you been doing the most outside of any classes you are taking?
Shellenberger: I live close to a golf course so I have played a lot of golf.
Q: That is convenient to live so close to a golf course. Have you see your game improve and what has your best round been?
Shellenberger: Golf was definitely a life saver during quarantine. We were fortunate our course remained open the whole time, so we were able to play a good amount. The range was closed for awhile so I haven’t made any crazy improvement. By being able to play a lot, I would like to think I have gotten a little better. Shooting 77 has been my best round.
Q: How has the team contact been since the season ended? Are there more meetings via Zoom than normal summers?
Shellenberger: The team contact has been a lot of fun. While our cultural/offensive meetings are definitely productive, I think the best part about them is just being able to get all the guys together. There are definitely more Zoom meetings this summer given the circumstances.
Q: With the season ending so abruptly, is there anything you would like to share with or about the seniors on the team?
Shellenberger: One of the hardest things about the season ending early was coming to terms with the fact that the seniors would not be able to go out on their own terms. I really cannot thank the seniors enough for everything they did this year, especially for us younger guys. This senior class brought Virginia back to the top of college lacrosse.
Q: What is your routine like this summer? Walk through a normal day.
Shellenberger: A normal day consists of lifting, running, shooting lacrosse, maybe a lesson and then most likely finishes with some golf.
Q: How do you create a routine while being at home?
Shellenberger: I think it starts with self-discipline. At home there is really nobody to hold you accountable but yourself. Our leaders have also done a great job helping guys stay motivated by creating small groups that allow guys to compete with each other on a daily basis through text.
Q: How do you stay motivated to train on your own?
Shellenberger: I have found that losses, negative comments, and trash talk can only motivate you but so much. Especially during this quarantine, when somedays it may be hard to get motivated, I find myself relying on what made me want to start playing lacrosse in the first place. I have been trying to cut out becoming motivated through anger and sadness, and instead focusing on my passion and love for the game.
Q: Describe Coach Tiffany in one word?
Shellenberger: Relentless (In a good way).
Q: Who is the funniest guy on the team?
Shellenberger: There are a lot of funny guys but I’ll go with someone outsiders may not expect with Petey Lasalla.
Q: Besides men’s lacrosse, who is your favorite UVA team to watch or follow? Favorite UVA athlete from another sport and why?
Shellenberger: Probably the men’s basketball team because of how hard they play and the values/standards coach Bennett holds his players to. You could argue no team plays harder or more disciplined than them. My favorite athlete from another sport would probably be Joe Reed from the football team. Having gotten to know Joe last summer, he is an even better person than he is player. I’m looking forward to seeing what he can do for the Chargers.
Q: You live in Charlottesville. Do you ever go by Grounds or Klöckner Stadium when you are out and about?
Shellenberger: As much as it hurts right now, I always find myself making my way through Grounds or doing a little drive by Klöckner. Driving by Klöckner is weird right now and kind of brings up a mixed bag of emotions given the uncertainty of what could have been last year, but also feelings of excitement for the future.
Q: Besides playing a lot of golf, have you picked up anything new that you always wanted to try?
Shellenberger: Not really to be honest, however, I have had a lot more time to play video games so being able to join a Madden League has been something that has helped keep me busy
Q: Have you been binge-watching anything since while at home?
Shellenberger: The only thing I really watched was the Last Dance Documentary back in April/May.
Q: To close, what has been your go-to meal?
Shellenberger: My go-to meal has been picking up Kabuto once every week or two. Nothing better than fried rice with a little shrimp, steak, and chicken mixed in.
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