CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. – After trailing 3-0 at the end of the first quarter, No. 1 Virginia (1-0) came roaring back to defeat Air Force (0-1) 21-11 in its season opener at Klöckner Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
Payton Cormier and Xander Dickson tied for a game-high four goals apiece to help lead the Cavaliers to victory. Twelve different UVA scorers found the back of the net, including Cormier and Dickson. Connor Shellenberger dished out a game-high five assists in addition to a pair of goals to lead all players with seven points.
In the cage, Matthew Nunes earned his first career win after collecting eight saves on 16 shots in 48:22 of action. Virginia was 21-for-35 at the faceoff-X and received a nice lift from Gable Braun, who recorded a career-high seven faceoff wins on 11 attempts. Petey LaSalla finished Saturday’s contest 11-for-18 on faceoffs.
HOW IT HAPPENED
The Falcons scored the game’s first three goals and led the two-time defending national champions 3-0 at the end of the first period. It took the Cavaliers just 2:17 into the second quarter to responded with three goals of their own from Griffin Schutz – his first career goal – Dickson and Evan Zinn, who made his debut in a Virginia uniform after transferring from Johns Hopkins in the offseason. With the score tied 3-3, Air Force regained the lead on back-to-back goals in a 12-second span. The Cavaliers took the lead one final time after closing out the first half on a 7-1 run, which was capped by a goal from faceoff specialist LaSalla with three seconds remaining.
Virginia’s offense continued to click in the third quarter as the Cavaliers scored seven goals and held the Falcons scoreless for the period. Virginia ultimately orchestrated a 15-1 run to put the game out of Air Force’s reach.
FROM THE LOCKER ROOM
Lars Tiffany on Virginia’s effort during rides…
“That’s a huge part of who we are, and I was really, really happy today with how we implemented that. It starts with the attack. They are like the front four of the defense in football. They need to put some pressure on the quarterback. Then you’ve got 6-7 Cole Kastner roaming around wreaking havoc in the middle of the field, and he’s such a threat. He causes the opposing team to hesitate and now the attack can get to and put pressure on the ball. That was really rewarding today because it is something we pride ourselves on. To have success like that was key today because with the slow start and not winning a lot of faceoffs, where else are we going to get those extra possessions? So, we got those and then we got better on the faceoffs to get those possessions.”
- Xander Dickson and Payton Cormier led the Cavaliers in goals with four apiece.
- Connor Shellenberger (2 goals, 5 assists) led all players with seven points.
- Twelve different Cavaliers found the back of the net.
- Griffin Schutz, Evan Zinn and Tucker Mullen all scored one goal each in their Virginia debuts.
- Defenseman Cole Kastner accounted for a career-high four of Virginia’s nine caused turnovers.
- The Cavaliers held Air Force 51.9 clear percentage (14-27).
- Virginia out-shot Air Force 51 to 31, including 19 to 35 on goal.
- First year goalie Matthew Nunes earned the win in his career debut.
- The Cavaliers were 21-for-25 on faceoffs.
- Gable Braun won a career-best seven faceoffs on 11 attempts.
Virginia returns to Klöckner Stadium on Sunday (Feb. 13) to host High Point in a 3 p.m. tilt on ACCNX. Additionally, the Virginia women’s lacrosse team opens its season at Klöckner Stadium on Sunday at noon prior to the men’s matchup against the Panthers.