His Truest Self: How Ian Laviano Became Virginia's Pulse


By the time Jared Conners’ shot hit the back of the net, Ian Laviano was in fast pursuit. The senior attackman raced to the fifth-year LSM and USILA Midfielder of the Year laying on the turf, then picked up his stick and hoisted it in the air along with his own, like a viking warrior.

Laviano’s rambunctious celebration in the second quarter of Virginia’s 12-11 NCAA semifinal win over top-seeded North Carolina was not a one-time occurrence. His post-goal reactions at this point should be considered a type of performance art. On a rain-soaked afternoon with wind chills in the 40s that forced many fans to hunker in the concourse Rentschler Field at Pratt & Whitney Stadium and prompted Lars Tiffany to deem it probably the coldest game ever played on Memorial Day weekend, Laviano’s mood hardly seemed dampened.

When he wasn’t riding or working to get open off-ball, he was usually hyping up his teammates. If Matt Moore and Connor Shellenberger are Virginia’s quarterbacks, then Laviano is its pulse. He seems to play with a permanent smile on his face and is everywhere all at once.

“His extreme passion for playing this game infects the rest of us,” reads a quote from Tiffany on Laviano’s Virginia roster bio underneath a picture of him arms spread wide, mouth agape after he scored the double-overtime game-winner against Duke in 2019 NCAA semis to send the Cavaliers to the title game. Virginia beat Yale 13-9 in the final to claim its first NCAA title since 2011. 

The moments after the historic win in 2019 was one of the few times Laviano was at a loss for words. 

“My love for the game of lacrosse, but also my love for my brothers,” Laviano said, his voice hoarse, when asked where his passion comes from. “Everything I do is for them. If I can spark just one guy, I’ve accomplished my job.” 

Saturday afternoon, Laviano didn’t mime taking pictures of his teammates after they scored, one of the more common moves in his repertoire. He had plenty of other material, especially during Virginia’s six-goal second quarter run. Fifteen seconds before Conners’ goal, he swung his stick in circles like a windmill after Payton Cormier scored to put Virginia up 6-4. Laviano clapped his hands like a gator chomp after an outside howitzer from Peter Garno a minute later. 

“That was actually my first time doing that one today,” Laviano said of the celebration with a laugh. “When I play I’m so in the moment. I’m my truest self. I feel free and do whatever comes [to me] at that time.”

After Charlie Bertrand scored his second goal of the game put the Cavaliers up 9-4 with seconds left in the first half, Laviano greeted him with a hug after a leaping 360 spin. When he wasn’t on the field he nearly straddled the sideline or stood in the substitution box and fist bumped the midfielders after their runs. After a timeout was called he ventured all the way out to the faceoff stripe to encourage his teammates before they gathered in the huddle. 

"It really brings our whole offense up when he's yelling, he's screaming, he's scoring goals, making plays," Cormier, who led Virginia with three goals, told CBS19 News in Charlottesville earlier this month. "He's just somebody on the team you have to have."

Laviano was a five-year starter and registered 314 points at Cold Spring Harbor High School, the alma mater of Cavalier greats Jay Jalbert and Adam Ghitelman. But late in his freshman year when tallied 46 points that put him in a tie with Matt Ward for all-time UVA first year point scorers, Laviano started to realize that his impact in Charlottesville could go beyond the stat sheet. 

“It’s contagious,” the upperclassmen told him about the energy he brought to practice that seemed to raise the level of competition everyday. “Keep it up.” 

The psychology major also has a knack for getting into other teams’ heads. During the Cavaliers’ second meeting this season against North Carolina, an 18-16 win, Laviano counted down the shot clock during one of the Tar Heels’ possessions. Only he was five seconds ahead. The Carolina player rolled the ball into the corner.

“That’s something I do every day in practice to scout O and our defense. To see it actually pay off in a game is pretty funny. Little things like that go a long way.” 

Laviano scored on a quick stick in mid-air off an assist from Connor Shellenberger with 59 seconds remaining in the third quarter to put Virginia up 12-8. It was the 151st point of his career and turned out to be the deciding goal to preserve the Cavaliers’ chances at a second consecutive national championship. 

Laviano has another year of eligibility remaining because of the COVID-19 shortened season, but will not return next spring after having accepted a job at Bank of America in New York City. The sense of finality adds pressure but also opportunity. 

“I'm incredibly grateful for this team,” said Laviano, who’s also passionate about art. “Every field that I play on serves as a canvas for me to be my true self, create and perform. I'm very fortunate to have one more opportunity on a fresh canvas in Connecticut.”

Though Laviano threw a pass that was intercepted in the final minute, Virginia’s defense stood strong to seal the one goal win. The entire team sprinted onto the field and migrated towards the Virginia fan section in the west end of the stadium. 

Many of the Cavaliers seemed reluctant to engage their well wishers at first. Laviano did not. His whole family including one of his older sisters, who had missed the 2019 Championship run because she was working abroad in New Zealand, were in the front row. She flew back Thursday night. 

Laviano raced down the line offering fist bumps and high fives. 

Pretty soon, his teammates joined in. 

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