By Jeff White (

TOWSON, Md. — The rest of the college lacrosse world might celebrate the occasion, but the end of the Connor Shellenberger Era will be a sad day for the University of Virginia men’s program.

Shellenberger, who grew up in Charlottesville, arrived on Grounds as a heralded recruit, and he’ll leave as one of the greatest players in the history of a storied program. No. 1 added to his legend Sunday at Towson University’s Johnny Unitas Stadium, where his unassisted goal with 1:40 left in the second overtime lifted UVA to an 11-10 win over Johns Hopkins.

The right-handed Shellenberger’s left-handed shot gave the Cavaliers their first and only lead in this NCAA quarterfinal.

“He continues to earn that moniker Mr. May, doesn’t he?” Virginia head coach Lars Tiffany said.

McCabe Millon might pick up a similar nickname before he’s done at UVA. In his second NCAA tournament game, the freshman from the Baltimore area totaled a team-high six points Sunday, on three goals and three assists.

“Wow, he did step up,” Tiffany said.

Such performances on this stage have become the trademark of Shellenberger, a St. Anne’s-Belfield School graduate who holds UVA’s career records for assists and points. He had two goals and five assists May 11 in a first-round win over Saint Joseph’s, and the All-America attackman contributed three goals and an assist Sunday to help the Wahoos advance to championship weekend for the third time in his illustrious career.

In 2021, Shellenberger was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player after leading UVA to the program’s seventh NCAA title.

“Isn’t it amazing what he’s done?” Tiffany said. “He sashayed into the lacrosse world as a redshirt first-year in 2021 and blew us all away what he did in those four games.”

If Shellenberger has his way, he’ll leave UVA with another championship ring. At 2:30 p.m. Saturday, sixth-seeded Virginia (12-5) meets No. 7 seed Maryland (10-5) in the second NCAA semifinal at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia. No. 5 seed Denver faces top-seeded Notre Dame, the reigning NCAA champion, in the noon game Saturday.

For much of the game Sunday, it appeared Hopkins (11-5) would end Shellenberger’s college career Sunday. The third-seeded Blue Jays led 10-7 after three quarters, and Virginia’s high-powered offense was sputtering. But the Hoos never lost faith, even after failing to convert several opportunities to break a 7-7 tie in the third quarter.

“There was something about our sideline today,” Shellenberger said. “I know the guys in the field had that belief, but you could just feel the energy from our sideline. I was feeding off it, and I’m sure the other guys in the field were feeding off it. It was just this do-or-die mindset, and we’re not leaving here with a loss.”

He smiled. “Whether that was true or not was a whole ‘nother thing, but you could feel that belief, and that’s all that mattered.”

McCabe Millon (9)

On a day when attackman Payton Cormier, the Division I record-holder for career goals, missed his first nine shots and scored only one goal, defense saved the Cavaliers. Virginia held Hopkins scoreless for the final 22 minutes and 57 seconds.

“It’s usually other way around here,” Tiffany said. “Usually the offense bails out the defense.”

Kyle Morris, who replaced starter Matthew Nunes in goal after Hopkins went up 4-0 in the first quarter, finished with eight saves. Long-stick midfielder Ben Wayer scooped up 10 ground balls, and close defenseman John Schroter collected six. Short-stick defensive midfielder Chase Yager forced three turnovers, including one in each of the overtime periods.

“They just kept giving us opportunities,” Shellenberger said of the Cavalier defenders.

At the other end of the field, Millon helped Virginia stay connected. He fed Jack Boyden for the Hoos’ first goal, and Millon finished the first half with two goals and two assists. He recorded his third assist early in the fourth quarter, on a Boyden goal that made it 10-8, and Millon’s goal with 2:59 left tied the game at 10-10.

Tiffany said he looked at offensive coordinator Kevin Cassese “a couple of times like, ‘Is [Millon] trying to take over too much?’ And Kevin’s like, ‘We need him. We’re not scoring a lot of goals right now. Payton’s not having his normal day and [midfielder Griffin] Schutz isn’t having his normal day, so he needs to.’ … And he rose to the moment, didn’t he?”

Millon starred at nearby McDonogh School, and “being able to play at this awesome venue with a chance to go the Final Four was something I’ve dreamed about for a long time,” he said.

“The atmosphere was unbelievable,” Millon said. “Credit to Towson and the NCAA for putting on an awesome event, and credit to the fans. It was loud down there. I think we have the best fans in the country and they showed out today. It was a really cool experience and I’m looking forward to seeing what it’s going to be like next week.”

To see Shellenberger score the game-winner made the victory even more special, Millon said. “He’s been a role model to me this whole year, and I don’t think I’d be able to do anything at this level without the guidance that I’ve gotten from him. He’s been an unbelievable role model for me, and Payton as well and all the upperclassmen. So I’m just really grateful to those guys for what they’ve taught me, how to be on and off the field, how to be a Virginia lacrosse player. Connor kind of prepares more than anyone else, and [the game-winner] was just an example of that preparation coming to fruition.”

Shellenberger leads the Cavaliers with 82 points, and Cormier is second with 76. Millon, an attackman who occasionally runs out of the midfield, is third with 64 (39 goals and 25 assists). He’s the offense’s quarterback-in-waiting, and Millon showed that he’ll be ready to take on that responsibility when Shellenberger departs.

“He was here to win the game, not simply manage it or try not to lose the game,” Tiffany said. “And that intensity, that belief in self, is why he was the No. 1 recruit in the country and why we’re very fortunate to have him.”

Connor Shellenberger

Until Sunday, Shellenberger was 0-3 in overtime games as a Cavalier, the most recent of those losses coming against Notre Dame in last year’s NCAA semifinals.

“I’m not a big crier,” Shellenberger said, but his emotions spilled over at game’s end Sunday. He’s treasured his time in the program he grew up following.

“I’ve been watching [UVA lacrosse] since I was 10, 11 years old,” Shellenberger said, “and to have a moment like this with this team in that venue was unbelievable.”

The Cavaliers avenged their regular-season loss to the Blue Jays, who’d rallied for a 16-14 victory at Klöckner Stadium on March 2. Now comes another rematch. UVA defeated Maryland 14-10 in College Park on March 16.

This has been an up-and-down season for the Terrapins, but they stunned No. 2 Duke 14-11 on Saturday in Hempstead, N.Y., and they have Virginia’s full attention. Under head coach John Tillman, Maryland has won two NCAA titles, and his record in the quarterfinal round is 10-1.

“That’s unbelievable,” Tiffany said. “Just a tremendous amount of respect for him and his program.”

Who’ll start in the cage for Cavaliers on Saturday is unclear.

“We’ve got a goalie battle, don’t we now?” Tiffany said. “So we’ll see how practice goes this week.”

Wayer said: “Whoever’s in net we have full confidence in.”

Morris, a sophomore who grew up in Baltimore and attended the nearby Gilman School, outplayed Nunes in practice last week, Tiffany said, and the coaches considered starting him against Hopkins. Tiffany had the final say, though, and decided to stick with Nunes, a junior who’s in his third year as a starter and has extensive NCAA tournament experience. But after the Blue Jays raced out to an early lead, the Cavaliers turned to Morris, who delivered a strong performance in the latest chapter of a legendary rivalry.

“You saw two teams completely empty the tank out there,” Tiffany said.

The Hoos’ comeback underscored “the power of belief,” Tiffany said. “I’ve been on some sidelines where you can tell it’s not going our way today, but not today, even though we never led until the very end. This team kept up a positive voice.”

No one on the UVA sideline offered more encouragement than Nunes, Tiffany said, “and a credit to him after getting pulled and giving up four goals early in that game. And he exemplifies the type of men that we have in the UVA men’s lacrosse program.”

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Lars Tiffany