No magical 5-goal comeback.
No overtime stunner.
Just good old-fashioned Notre Dame lacrosse. Sergio Perkovic scored four goals, two of them part of a six goal Irish 4th quarter fury as Notre Dame beat Albany for the second straight year to advance to the Final Four in Philadelphia.
What was going to be a match of All-Everything Lyle Thompson vs. Matt Kavanagh turned out to be anything but, as the Irish defense led by ACC Defensive Player of the Year Matt Landis held the best player in the game to one goal and four assists.
Kavanagh in turn was held to just one goal but that belies the story of the game, which was dominated by the Irish middies, who accounted for 9 of the Irish's 14 goals.
The game really never seemed in doubt either. The Irish and Great Danes played back and forth lacrosse until a lightning delay forced both teams to the locker room in the second quarter.
Out of that, Notre Dame went off on an offensive streak that put the Irish ahead 8-4 at the half.
The third quarter could not have gone worse for Notre Dame as Albany scored five unanswered to go up 9-8 going into the deciding quarter.
From there, it was all Notre Dame, as the offense regained its mojo, unleashing 6 unanswered to put the game away.
The Irish will face Denver and Old Line Staters Maryland and Johns Hopkins will match up in the other semifinal.
Some thoughts below:
When you're wrong, you're wrong.
I said that Albany would win 18-13 and I was not even remotely close to being correct. I blame it on the sour taste of the Duke ACC Semi in my mouth but also on my (incorrect) assumption that the Irish would not have an answer for Lyle Thompson. They did and boy was it special.
The Irish defense decided to ratchet up pressure and force Thompson out on an island. It looked a lot like the defense Notre Dame used against Syracuse to get Kevin Rice out of the game but on steroids. Irish poles slid early and often on Thompson. Landis almost exclusively guarded Thompson all game to great effect. He threw stick and body checks on him all game and clearly rattled him. Lyle was basically forced into being a feeder for Connor Fields.
The downside of that is Fields' six goal outing, but without Thompson making plays, it didn't matter. Irish defensive coach Gerry Byrne deserves all the awards for the brilliance of this defensive game plan.
When you're right, you're right.
In my preview, I noted that Albany's weakness was in the defensive midfield and for the Irish to have a shot, they would need to exploit that. I predicted that the Notre Dame middies would have a good day and sure enough they did. Albany had no answer to the aggressive play of the Irish mids and struggled to keep PJ Finley off the face off X. 9 goals out of 14 total shows that Notre Dame took what Albany was giving them and didn't back down.
What the heck happened to the ACC?
For being the unbeatable conference, all the teams not counting Notre Dame looked rather pedestrian in the NCAA tourney. Syracuse was stunned by Hopkins, who also beat Virginia in the opening round. Duke looked awful in a rare home-loss to Ohio State and North Carolina looked atrocious against Maryland. It just goes to show you that rankings truly mean nothing if you can't win when it counts.
Here we go again.
Notre Dame, to the delight of the selection committee, gets yet another rematch, this time against Denver, who bested Notre Dame 11-10 in the regular season. I'm somewhat annoyed by this matchup because of what is playing on the other side of the bracket in Maryland/Hopkins, another dream matchup for the selection committee, which just proves my point in my Albany preview.
I like the Irish this time around though.
Punter Bro's Thoughts:
Paul, you idiot. How could you ever doubt this team?