Edited 5/2/216 to add highlight video
It's the post-season, and as noted in our preview, Team ND-Atl is throwing objectivity out the window. From here on in, we are complete homers. This one hurt bad, folks. Maybe it was because we had this date circled on our calendars for so long (we so rarely get such high-level lacrosse here), but I think it was watching our guys walk off the field and seeing how this hurt them. Speaking for us here in Atlanta, we greatly appreciate the Fighting Irish and #ACCMlax coming to Kennesaw. I know the northeast cabal has been griping over the choice to play here, but the local lacrosse and Notre Dame communities are grateful. ND-Atl 2.0 is sitting this recap out (he's in a funk over this, too), so I hope to provide his level of analysis.
It was a great day in Atlanta, starting off perhaps a bit too hot, but cooling off nicely for the semis. A good chunk of the ND crowd kept the festivities going in the parking lot while Syracuse built a lead over UNC in the first game. Many of the players' families and friends were in town for the event and it was a treat to meet them.
The first half was a defensive showcase, with the Irish taking a 3-1 lead into the locker room with goals from Wynne, Perkovic and Garnsey. Any concern over the Irish defense was quickly put to bed as they stood tall and one wondered if the dynamic duo of Myles Jones and Deemer Class were even at the game. The offense wasn't particularly efficient but Duke did an excellent job of denying ND any transition opportunities. ND scored all goals 6-on-6, with three goals being a very good output for this team.
Things got sporty quickly in the 10-goal third period with each team scoring 5. The highlight was an insane goal by Matt Kavanagh, the video of which hardly does it justice:
What a catch and finish inside by Kavanagh pic.twitter.com/hCJLIGAI8g— Lacrosse Film Room (@LaxFilmRoom) April 30, 2016
The concern was that Duke was learning to convert opportunities. Myles Jones remained under wraps, but the volume of scoring by the remainder of the Duke team was changing the feel of the game, and Deemer Class began to find the back of the net and Duke whittled away at the ND lead which had at one point stretched to 4 goals. Still, Perkovic finished off his hat-trick and the Irish held on to an 8-6 lead.
The Irish let Duke back in the game for good with the Blue Devils scoring on two Irish penalties. The second was particularly costly as it came when the loss of momentum was palpable in the stadium. Mikey Wynne got caught giving a Duke player a little bit of extra business off the play, and Duke quickly scored on their man-up. From this point Duke seemed to get better possessions and Myles Jones finally got on the scoreboard to tie the game. A lost face-off and Duke closed the game out a minute and a half into overtime.
Analysis and game observations:
*Sergio Perkovic is no one-trick pony: Sure, his dodging won't earn many style points, but it is effective. He's is developing a better distribution sense. We all know his overhand right is absolutely god-like, but his left is not shabby at all. And for those who complain that he doesn't pass out of slides, to my observation he never seems to be in a position where passing is the better option to shooting, so let's hold off criticizing until a defense actually puts him in a passing situation.
*The face-off situation is reaching alarming status: 5 of 23 at face-off X. Ouch. Frankly, it didn't even look that good. In the bulk of the opportunities ND took the faceoff on their feet, conceding the clamp, and while there were some crazy scrums, ND simply wasn't coming up with the ball. It just so happens that this year the Irish are going up against a murderers row of face-off specialists, and Finley and Travisano are giving A+ effort, but there has to be a solution. The ND defense is not designed to generate turnovers, so giving the them 5+ extra possessions to defend is simply unworkable. No defense is that good. The faceoff unit had improved so much in the early second-half of the season only to be in free-fall since the 4th q of the UNC game. There will be no break next week as Army is solid in that department, too.
*The stats show Duke cleared 16 of 17: This surprises me as the ride looked much, much better than that from the stands. The larger point is that, whether my observation was the ride or more generic turnovers generated, Duke denied the Irish any transition opportunities. Between the faceoff problems and no transition, the Irish earned all their goals the hard way. While this perseverance should be applauded, it's not sustainable for this offensive set-up.
*Kavanagh, Garnsey and Wynne: I needed to see them live again to appreciate the incredible handle these three have. Holy smokes they are magicians with the ball. Kavanagh is in a class all his own, I will miss him in the blue and gold, but the Irish will be in good hands with the combination of Garnsey and Wynne.
*2nd and 3rd midfield continue to impress: They didn't show up much on the scoresheet, but they continue to play well and were no less threatening that the starting line. Midfield will be a strength of the Fighting Irish the next few seasons.
*Shane Doss looked frustrated: To our observation, he was seeing the ball well and playing great. Some bad luck (rebounds right to a Duke stick) and partial saves seemed to get to him. I hope he puts this game out of his mind.
*We promise to keep our mouths shut next year: Apparently, Duke Coach Danowsksi must be a reader of our musings and took our advice to rest Myles Jones more during the game to keep him fresh for the 4th quarter. Some of our Duke colleagues and friends took issue with our Myles Jones conditioning criticism: Folks, Myles Jones is crazy awesome, but he is a 250 lb midfielder. Commenting on 4th quarter conditioning is not a jab, it is a statement of physics.
*Tewaaraton lists cut to 25. Landis, Kavanagh and Perkovic made the cut. I know the Irish lost, but #MattLandisTewaaraton was spectacular in the field this evening. His one-on-one defense is such a pleasure to watch. He covered the attackmen at X most of the game so we had a front-row seat to observe . As a lacrosse nerd, I could watch him play all day long. For a brief minute coming out of a Duke timeout near the end of a quarter, we got our dream Jones v. Landis matchup, and Landis didn't let Myles Jones breath (the two generally are on opposite sides of the field, I know, but it so would have been awesome to see more of that). Matt Landis- the decision of the Tewaaraton committee is not up to me, but I will say that you got robbed if you are not invited as a finalist.
*While I understand the ACC tournament is basically a made-for-TV event, it would be nice for the ACC to make a better effort at selling tickets. The Cobb County classic basically filled this stadium up, but it seemed in the Atlanta market that putting butts in seats was an afterthought.
*To the Irish and Duke players and equipment staff: That was a beautifully manicured field, the best you will see all year, so what what was up with all the slipping and sliding?
*Sorry for the lack of video, it was a late game and clips aren't up yet.
Finally: To the young men of NDLax, we know today did not end with the result we all wanted, but we were very glad to see you play in our town, and we are tremendously proud of what you have done this season and hope you will keep your chins up and not let this one result disrupt your process. We still say with confidence that we look forward to seeing you hoist the trophy on Memorial Day.