Men's Lacrosse: Irish drop Albany in Overtime, 14-13, head to Final Four

Eric Hartline-US PRESSWIRE

Kavanagh's OT end-line save led to his game-winning goal; Irish head to their third Final Four appearance in the last five years against an oh-so-familiar opponent.

Notre Dame Attackman Matt Kavanagh put his arms up in the air and waited for his teammates to run to him.

The comeback was complete.

Kavanagh scored two and a half minutes into overtime, completing a Notre Dame rally as the Irish defeated Albany 14-13 to head to the Final Four.

The Irish attackman might've made the play of the game just ten seconds before the goal.

An errant pass after an aggressive defensive play by Albany almost forced the ball out at the endline, which would have given the Great Danes the ball back. Instead, Kavanagh dove to save the ball, keeping it inbounds, and was able to get the ground ball that allowed Notre Dame to call timeout and regroup.

Out of the timeout, Kavanagh took the ball at the top of the box and attempted a drive. Albany countered with a very early slide by a short-stick middie, giving him the mismatch he was looking for. Kavanagh drove again and bounced a shot through the legs of Albany goalie Blaze Riorden to send the Irish to their third Final Four in the last five years.

"That's championship lacrosse," Irish Head Coach Kevin Corrigan said smiling during his postgame interview with ESPN. And he couldn't be more right.

With less than ten minutes left in the game, the Irish were down 12-7. Most teams, including offensive-heavy Albany, struggle to come back from a deficit like that. The referees were very reluctant all game to call penalties and were very lax with the "timer on" rule, so the odds favored the Great Danes.

Instead, the Irish went on a 6-1 tear, starting with an unconventional goal by Nick Ossello with 8:11 left in the game after the Irish middie caught it off a deflection and wristed it past Great Danes goalie Blaze Riorden. From there, the Irish found their groove again, scoring three more goals in a one-minute span to get within one. An Albany timeout led to a bizarre series of events that saw two rapid fire Irish shots hit Riorden and a third bounce off the pipe that led to a Great Danes breakout and goal to extend the lead back to two.

The Irish would get back within one after forcing an Albany turnover on the faceoff that led to a fast-break goal by Westy Hopkins. Freshman Sergio Perkovic would bury one past Riorden just a minute and a half later.

Conor Kelly (6 saves), plagued by the Thompsons all day, was able to stonewall a shot with three seconds left to force the extra period.

Helping the Irish cause was Liam O'Connor, who was sharp at the faceoff X, winning 21-31. O'Connor showed some new moves, utilizing his wings as Albany worked on jamming O'Connor and slowing the Irish break.

The early part of the game was dominated by the Irish, who jumped out to a 4-0 lead before Albany slowly trickled back with the help of Myles, Lyle and Ty Thompson.

The Thompsons (all playing attack) put on a lacrosse clinic for the Great Danes, scoring 8 of the team's 13 goals, and they did so in highlight-reel fashion. One-handed backhand shots, quicksticks, around-the-world shots, it didn't matter. They all went past Kelly.

The Great Danes used their star players to great effect on a third quarter run that gave Albany its first lead of the game.  That run would extend into the fourth quarter before the Irish were able to mount a comeback.

Albany ends the season on a high-note though. The Great Danes upset  #3-seed Loyola last week and both Miles and Lyle Thompson were named as finalists for the Tewaaraton Trophy last week.  Both are arguably the frontrunners for lacrosse's highest honor.

Notre Dame now heads to Baltimore to take on Maryland for the third time this season. The teams split the earlier two contests, Maryland winning 12-8 in South Bend while the Irish scored with 5 seconds left in the ACC Semifinals to beat the Terps en route to their first ACC Championship.

Maryland cruised past Bryant 16-8 in the first game of the day at Hofstra.

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