Editor’s Note: Guest post by Hayden King
UVA is the best team heading into 2023 according to USA Lacrosse Magazine. However, Vegas has them 3rd in future odds to capture the title.
For bettors, Virginia should be at the top of your list every year. Their star power during the Tiffany regime has carried them on countless deep tournament runs. I don’t think there’s a more appealing future in 2023 than UVA at +700.
Coach Tiffany has led the Cavaliers to the 2019 title and were in a position to defend the title in 2020 before the shutdown. Despite the break, they took the trophy back to Charlottesville in 2021 to repeat as National Champions. If it weren’t for that shutdown, Virginia would’ve gone back-to-back-to-back.
His recruiting ability is elite and he develops players better than anyone in the country. Based on those two things alone I’d make the argument he’s the best coach in lacrosse no matter the level. He constantly brings in the top talent. And, after hearing he flipped McCabe Millon (#1 2023 Recruit) from Danowski and Duke, I think we’re in the midst of a Warrior’s like dynasty brewing in Virginia.
If you follow the NBA, the 2016-17 Warriors are widely seen as one of the best teams ever assembled. Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, Andre Igoudala; the team was absolutely stacked.
If you look at Shellenberger, Cormier, Schutz, Dickson, Kastner, Nunes, LaSalla, Saustad, Miezan, McConvey, Sunderland, I think UVA may try to stake their claim as the best team ever assembled.
This has been my favorite team to watch for the last three seasons. They’ve won two of the last three championships, and you could make the argument this team is better than the squad they had in 2019.
They got bullied by Maryland in the 2022 Tournament, but this team will be significantly more athletic, experienced, and hungry.
They’re coming in ranked #1 by USA Lacrosse Magazine. Without Matt Moore the offense will look different, but Lars planned for his graduation. Bringing in McConvey, Miezan, and Sunderland may be the fix that pushes the Hoos to their third championship in four years.
The Hoo’s released their schedule about two weeks ago, and man do they look poised for a title run. They haven’t lost a game in Charlottesville since the 2021 season, cruising on an 8-game streak. They have 8 of their 14 games at home this year, so if we’re sticking on that clip we should expect them to go 8-6 MINIMUM in 2023.
Virginia did a nice job setting up their schedule though. They’ll start off the season vs. Michigan, which sounds like a strong way to start the season. What I love about this matchup is the fact Lars Tiffany has never lost to Michigan, beating them twice with Brown. On top of that, Michigan has never played Virginia, and with this game in Charlottesville I think it should be an easy win to start the season as the Wolverines won’t be used to the buzz of Klockner Field.
They also scheduled 2022 Tournament teams Harvard, Ohio State, Richmond and Maryland. They saved Maryland for the middle of the season, which will be the first test of this Virginia team. If they win that game, which I think they will, it will be hard to see them not hoisting the trophy in May.
The star power at UVA is honestly scary. How do you graduate Matt Moore and get better offensively? I’ve been in the camp that Matt Moore was one of the best players in the nation.
I may have been a little too high on him sometimes (see my tweet thread below) but damn was he good.
He’s gone but they have somehow managed to get better offensively, at least on paper. The acquisitions of Vermont’s Thomas McConvey and Stanford’s Ricky Miezan have made this team quite an interesting future bet. I said it last week, but I love the transfer portal.
Miezan is an absolute monster and former linebacker out of Stanford. His Stanford profile has him listed at 6’2 235 lbs, and he’s a former #1 lacrosse prospect. I don’t know if you’ll find anyone scarier than this man on a college lacrosse field in 2023. It will be interesting to see if there’s any rust in his game, but Tiffany has already announced he will have an offensive middie role.
I’m incredibly interested in McConvey for the ‘23 season. He scored 70 goals for Vermont last year, captained Canada’s U21 team and, he was selected #1 in the NLL draft after playing Junior A for the Mimico Mountaineers.
He’s dealing with a bit of a shoulder injury currently, so we’ll see how fresh he is in February.
If the last ten years have shown us anything, box players can score a lot of goals. McConvey is special. He has silky hands inside and could realistically score 100 goals with the right feeder and scheme.
I talked a lot last week about Pat Kavanagh and projected him as being the 2023 Tewaaraton winner. I’m still sticking by that, but he’s going to have some tough competition with Connor Shellenberger. Remember me saying McConvey could score 100 goals with the right feeder? Well, Shellenberger was #5 in the nation last year in assists per game.
Shellenberger is one of the smoothest operators I’ve seen play. He knows how to manipulate his man, slides, goalies, even time.
If it wasn’t for how stacked Virginia is, I’d pick him to be the Tewaaraton winner in 2023. Expect him to be the initiator from most wing and X situations.
Trying to shorten the blog a bit this week, but we need to mention the fact Virginia is bringing back every starter except for Matt Moore. That means their offense is going to be as high powered as in years past with names like: Payton Cormier, Griffin Schutz, Jeff Conner, and Xander Dickson. They all deserve a paragraph each, but for the sake of length we will talk more about them during the season.
Someone to look out for is former #2 recruit Truitt Sunderland. He’ll be a freshman this year, and with the quality around him it will be hard to find playing time. I’ve heard he scored 3 goals in fall ball for the Hoos, so sounds like Lars should be playing him a decent amount.
Truitt has the ability to dazzle all over the field, and his willingness to ride on clears may earn him some playing time at attack. It’s going to be hard to keep him off the field, so if he isn’t playing attack expect to see him running out of the box for the Cavs.
Overall, I expect the first midfield unit will be Miezan, McConvey (if healthy), and Dickson. As for the attack, Shellenberger, Cormier, and Schutz seem like the most obvious fit.
Expect Sunderland to get plenty of playing time out of the box early in the season.
Led by 2nd Team Preseason All American Cole Kastner, this might be the most stacked defense in 2023. Kastner had the most single-season caused turnovers for a Virginia player since 2017, and all of them know how to swoop the ball off the carpet.
I once heard Lars Tiffany wouldn’t recruit poles unless they had played hockey. If you’ve seen these guys on the turf/grass, I think that may still be true. They pick anything up that comes near them, and have proven to be one of the best ground ball teams in the country, which was a huge reason they won in 2019/21.
UVA is returning Sophomore goalie Matthew Nunes, one of the best goalies in the country. The Texas native is going to get even better this year, and with the defense in front of him, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him have the highest save percentage in college lacrosse this season.
One of the more talked about pieces of this team is their depth. We’ve talked about some of the depth they have at offense, but these guys are stacked from top to bottom with LSM’s and SSDM’s. Don’t be shocked if they’re one of the most efficient defensive midfield groups in the country.
I haven’t even mentioned Petey LaSalla, who has been a top 3 faceoff specialist in college lacrosse for years. He’s going to make sure this team handles time of possession, and he’s more than willing to take a few shots himself. Overall, this team will dominate the face offs when you add in athletic wing play.
Behind the best coach in college lacrosse, the #1 ranked player, and one of the largest defenses in the country, it’s hard to see any issues with this team. They’re my favorite to win the title this year, and I think it’s borderline theft being able to acquire them at +700.
If you want to see a game recap from Virginia last year to get an idea of what they’ll have in 2023, check out this thread:
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