Matt Kavanagh was staring at another double goose egg.
Maryland Defender Goran Murray had effectively shut down the Irish attackman all night with an impressive shut-down effort.
Until the final 10 seconds of the game.
Kavanagh took a fast break pass from midfielder Jack Near and buried it past Maryland goalie Niko Amato with 7 seconds left, sending the Irish to their first-ever ACC final with a 6-5 win over the Terps.
After falling apart late to the Maryland less than a week ago in a 12-8 loss at home, the Irish played close to the chest in a low-scoring affair under the lights and rain at PPL Park in Chester, PA. The Irish struggled in the faceoff department in a bad way a week ago with Notre Dame only winning 4 of 24 faceoffs. They made the most of their possessions this time around, especially in the second half.
A player not typically seen on the stat-sheet got things started for the Irish. Attackman Westy Hopkins, relegated to the 4th-attack role after ceding the position to John Scioscia, started the Irish off with a first-half goal that would be the only Irish score in the first half.
Despite being down, 4-1, the Irish would slog back slowly but surely, scoring two in the 3rd quarter and 3 in the 4th Quarter, relying mostly on their strength: their attack unit. Scioscia, Conor Doyle and Eddy Lubowicki all scored goals, as did middie Jim Marlatt on a bounce-shot that was not only pure vintage, but a must-teach shot for young lacrosse players. In all, the Irish attack scored 5 of the team's 6 goals. Even better: five different attackmen scored those goals.
Irish goalie Conor Kelly arguably played the best game of his limited season, saving 12 shots on a relentless Terps offense.
With the ball back in Irish hands with a couple minutes left in the game, Irish coach Kevin Corrigan called timeout to organize an offensive gameplan.
It didn't work.
ND came out looking a little disorganized and ended up throwing the ball away, giving the Terps possession with a minute left and a timeout in hand, which Maryland Coach John Tilman used right away.
Then the lacrosse gods smiled on the Irish.
Mike Chanenchuk, plagued by a bad ankle, was checked by middie Jack Near and slipped on the wet turf, giving possession back to the Irish. Near picked the ball up and flew towards the Maryland net. When the point slide came to Near, he dished it to Kavanagh who buried it past Amato with almost no-time remaining.
The Irish move on to face a familiar foe from their Big East days in Syracuse, who upset Duke in the first semifinal game, 16-15.
A berth in the NCAA tournament was assumed for ND regardless of the result, but was still dicey. While 6-6, the Irish had a very impressive resume, with two top-10 wins and 5 losses over ranked teams. A loss to Penn State was the only blemish on their resume. Yet, at 6-6, they would still have to face the gauntlet of hoping that there weren't enough upsets in other tournaments.
With three wins over top-10 teams, a berth is all but assured for Notre Dame, but a ACC Championship would guarantee it.
- Matt Kavanagh and Stephen O'Hara were named to the All-ACC Team earlier in the week.
- Kavanagh also made the first-cut for the Tewaaraton Trophy Award, making it to the final 28.
- PPL Park has regular grass. Just saying.
- How about that prediction for the ND-Maryland game last week? [brushes shoulders]
- When the Irish scored the go-ahead goal with 6.5 seconds left, it was their first lead over an ACC opponent since the first quarter of the Virginia game. The Irish never led against Syracuse, Duke or Maryland.
- The Irish finished the season without winning on their home field. Yes, they beat Virginia at Loftus and Robert Morris at Alumni Stadium, but never won at Arlotta.