And just like that, the season is back on.
The Notre Dame Fighting Irish upset the No. 2-ranked Maryland Terrapins in a statement game, vaulting the Irish back into the top-10 nationally and reinstating hope for a championship season.
After losing to a scrappy Richmond team, Notre Dame made it clear they weren’t going to throw in the towel and accept a beatdown at the hands of one of the sport’s power programs. Even after falling to a 4-1 deficit early in the first quarter and losing seven out of eight faceoffs, Notre Dame struck back with the speed and vigor of an agitated cobra.
The Irish closed the gap to 4-3 before the quarter ended and outscored the Terps 4-1 in the second to take a 7-5 lead heading into halftime. The third quarter resembled a pair of heavyweights throwing haymakers at each other, and just as Notre Dame looked ready to put the game to rest in the fourth, Maryland roared back to send the game to overtime.
Then, this happened:
OT WINNER@NDLacrosse's Brian Willetts scored the game-winning goal in overtime to knock off previously undefeated No. 2 Maryland.#GoIrish pic.twitter.com/zmyvp9e8KI— The Fighting Irish (@FightingIrish) March 5, 2019
Now, I’m not going to say this was a crease violation, after all, who could really tell from this angle? What I am going to say is, this was a heck of a play by Willetts. He was patiently looking for an open man, didn’t find one, threw a couple of nice fakes and went full speed around the crease for an epic, diving, game-winning shot that put Notre Dame right back in the conversation for ACC championship contenders.
WHERE THE IRISH SHINED
Lots of areas. Goalie play improved. Movement on offense improved and exclusive reliance on Brian Costabile has decreased. Connor Morin, Brendan Gleason and Brian Willetts have really stepped up and shown they can carry some of the weight, and that’s what makes this team a postseason threat.
I also loved the team’s resilience. Bouncing back from that atrocious showing early in the first quarter instead of rolling over and letting the blue-bloods rout the Irish in front of their fans, that was really nice to see.
WHERE THE IRISH LACKED
The Irish struggled in the exact same area I’ve been so concerned about even before the season started: faceoffs. You can’t expect to win games like that on a consistent basis when you are losing two out of every three faceoffs. You just can’t. The Terps were essentially playing make-it-take-it. Notre Dame could’ve won this game by four or five goals if they could win a damn faceoff. This absolutely has to improve, and fast.
I wasn’t entirely pleased with the late run by Maryland to send the game into overtime. The game should’ve been over long before then. I’ll concede that it’s tough to put away a team like Maryland, so I won’t rant about this, but at the same time, you can’t let teams claw their way back into a game like that. The Terps were dangerously close to stealing a win and effectively derailing Notre Dame’s season in what would’ve been back-to-back losses.
The game MVP has to go to the ACC Player of the Week, Brendan Gleason. The senior attackman tallied four goals, an assist, three ground balls and a caused turnover and was absolutely instrumental in securing the win for the Irish.