CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (CBS19 SPORTS) -- Rarely does a goal less than a minute into a regular season game mean so much, but when Connor Shellenberger fired the opening goal against Notre Dame, Virginia players believe it might be the most important of the season.

"It's really, really important more than pretty much any other goal that we scored this entire year," senior attackman Payton Cormier said, "That one sort of had a little more fire to it."

The emotion afterwards said as much, with the normally cool-headed Shellenberger jumping around and the bench coming onto the field to celebrate. This season has been a trying one for the St. Anne's-Belfield alum, but the opening goal of a 12-8 win over No. 1 Notre Dame felt like a turning point.

"That was kind of a culmination of I guess frustration this year and feeling like you're not playing your best lacrosse whether it's because of injury or just not playing very well in general," Shellenberger said.

Just by glancing at stats, Shellenberger remains one of the top attackmen in college lacrosse with 19 goals and a nation's leading 43 assists, while being named a Tewaaraton Award nominee once again. But the UVA captain has battled a lower body injury for the last month, even missing the North Carolina game, accounting for only eight points combined in three games against Duke twice and Syracuse.

But the Charlottesville native's health has seen an uptick in recent weeks, which shows with nine points across two games against Lafayette and Notre Dame, including his first home goal since the March 18 matchup with Maryland in the opening minute against the Fighting Irish.

"He's just healthy, yeah he's been banged up, enough to play," head coach Lars Tiffany said, "Obviously didn't play against Carolina, but he's getting to the point where he's really, really starting to get comfortable."

This season has marked a change in play style for the Cavaliers, who in the past used a two-quarterback system with both Matt Moore and Shellenberger creating for the rest of the offense. While Cormier and the third attackman in Xander Dickson -- who rank in the top-15 nationally for goals scored -- have helped take the pressure off with career-years, the UVA offense works best when No. 1 is at his best.

"Whenever he's able to kick start us it helps our team play a better lacrosse game," Cormier said.

Most teams with an eye on the NCAA Tournament will be in action this weekend, but Virginia will get their two weeks of rest. The extra time Tiffany hopes to use to heal the roster for the month of May, especially Shellenberger, who has tallied five-plus point in five of his six career games in the NCAA Tournament.

"Finally hoping I was feeling like I was kind of turning the corner physically and hopefully that can lead to some good lacrosse here in May," Shellenberger said.