“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.’ ”
And so he did, sending the Cavaliers (12-4) into a matchup with top-seeded North Carolina in next Saturday’s national semifinals in East Hartford, Conn. It will be the 24th semifinal appearance for Virginia, the national champion in 2019.
Georgetown (13-3) was denied its first trip to the semifinals since 1999. The Hoyas’ output was the lowest for any team in an NCAA quarterfinal since Harvard’s 18-3 loss to North Carolina in 1990.
“Today wasn’t our day,” Hoyas Coach Kevin Warne said. “You can point to a bunch of things, and it was mostly the guys in the white jerseys.”
Fifth-year attackman Jake Carraway — a finalist for the Tewaaraton Award, which honors the nation’s top player — had just one assist in his final college game as Virginia rotated defensemen throughout the day. Cole Kastner began the game on Carraway, and Cade Saustad took some turns on the Hoyas’ star.
Things went downhill almost from the start for Georgetown. Warne was hit in the head by a wayward shot during warmups, but his pain didn’t compare to the apparent leg injury that faceoff ace James Reilly suffered in the opening minute. Reilly attempted only one more faceoff and was consoled by his fellow specialists during a first-quarter timeout.
Without Reilly, who had won 58.4 percent of his draws entering the day, Georgetown used four other faceoff men to little effect. Virginia’s Petey LaSalla won 15 of 19 draws, and the Cavaliers finished 16 for 21 on the day.
“I’m never going to say it’s going to be one thing, but that didn’t help,” Warne said. “When he gets injured off the opening faceoff and on top of that we don’t score on the man up, I’m just not sure we were mentally ready to handle that. It was a big blow.”
From the start, it was clear that Virginia was not only faster and more athletic but almost purposefully more physical. That was especially true on defense. The Cavaliers made a statement in the opening minutes when they were two men down but avoided giving up a goal. They left little room for Georgetown to maneuver and permitted the Hoyas only two settled goals on the day.
It was an echo of two years ago, when Virginia’s defense grew stronger in May and keyed the Cavaliers’ run to the most recent national title.
“I definitely think it’s comparable,” Virginia’s Jared Conners said. “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.”
Shellenberger wasn’t a part of that team; he redshirted in 2020 and then immediately became a midfield mainstay. He scored five times in the first half Saturday as Virginia built a 10-1 lead, then added a sixth goal to tie Doug Knight (1995 quarterfinals against Brown) and Mikey Herring (2019 first round against Robert Morris) for the Cavaliers’ postseason record.
Shellenberger has 30 goals and a team-high 36 assists this year.
“It’s definitely something I’ve been trying to focus on, being more aggressive but not reckless,” Shellenberger said.
Virginia largely sat on the ball over the final 20 minutes, taking only four shots in the fourth quarter while continuing to silence the Hoyas. It was a disappointing end for Georgetown, which was in the quarterfinals for the first time since 2007. It was nonetheless a step forward for a team that had become an afterthought by the time Carraway joined the program for the 2017 season.
“When I got here, Georgetown was in a really bad spot,” he said. “Just to get to where we’ve gotten now, a quarterfinal . . . is extremely satisfying. I wouldn’t change these last five years for anything.”
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