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Men's Lacrosse: Irish fall to Duke, 11-9 in National Championship game

A sloppy start by the Irish led to a 2nd half comeback that fell just short.

Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Jordan Wolf scored two goals and added four assists and Duke was able to hold off a furious Notre Dame rally to win their second national championship in as many years, beating the Irish 11-9 in Baltimore.

Notre Dame started the game off sloppy, committing 11 turnovers in the first half where they had averaged 14 per game. And Duke capitalized.

The Blue Devils jumped out to a 2-0 lead and extended it to 5-1 at the half.  Leading the way was Wolf, who showed every bit the reason why he is a Tewaaraton Trophy finalist. The attackman took advantage of a tired Irish defense and mismatches with short stick defenders to garner six points on the afternoon.

"We just played 30 minutes of poor lacrosse to start the game and I don't know what to attribute that to." Said Irish Head Coach Kevin Corrigan.

Making it all the more impressive is that Wolf did so well without his sidekick, Josh Dionne. Dionne, second only to Wolf in goals for the Blue Devils, suffered a knee injury earlier in the tournament, ending his prolific career in Durham.

For their part, the Irish defense kept the game from getting completely out of hand, limiting the Blue Devils to only five first half goals and garnering stellar play by Irish goalie Conor Kelly.  The Junior played another solid game in net for the Irish, saving six shots in the first half on the way to a 12-save performance on the day.

In what would be a tale of two halves, the Irish clawed back in the 2nd half to cut the lead all the way to one. In the 4th quarter specifically, the Irish defense forced 5 Duke turnovers while only committing one themselves. And the Irish outscored the Blue Devils 8-6 in the 2nd half.

With the Irish down one, Senior middie Jim Marlatt bounced a shot off Duke goalie Luke Aaron, who successfully cleared it and Duke's Kyle Keenan squeaked one past Kelly to extend the lead back to two. Sergio Perkovic, who tied the Irish NCAA record for goals in a game, scored his fifth of the day to get the game back within a goal.

But Duke faceoff specialist Brendan Fowler won the ensuing faceoff and Wolf scored out of a Duke timeout to seal the win.

For their part (and a retrospective post/podcast will be in the works this week), this Irish team overachieved on the year and overcame quite a bit of adversity.

Going into their rematch in the ACC Semi's against Maryland, the Irish were 6-5 and in danger of being a tournament bubble team (don't listen to ESPN gobbledegook...the Irish were likely in on RPI alone and note I didn't say they weren't going to make the tourney) but the Irish upset the Terps and later Syracuse to win the ACC Championship and then won their first game of the season in Arlotta Stadium in an offensive fiesta against Army to earn a #6-seed in the tournament.  A dominating win over Harvard, an OT thriller over Albany, and a defensive show over Maryland put the Irish in a position to win the program's first ever national championship.

But it wasn't meant to be.