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First two wins for Notre Dame’s Men’s Lacrosse and what we have learned so far

The Irish are off to a fast start with two tough opponents on deck

The Irish dominated in their first two matchups this season
Photo Credit: Fred Assaf

The Fighting Irish have gotten the 2023 season underway and after two matchups in five days, we are 2-0. The Irish beat Marquette last week on Wednesday night inside Loftus with a final score of 21-10 and then on a sunny Sunday afternoon at Arlotta, the Irish took down Cleveland State with a final tally of 18-8.

For those keeping track, that is 39 goals in two games for our Irish as the offense has come to play.

Let’s take a look at the matchups and then we can lay out what we have learned about our Irish two games into this season.

Notre Dame vs Marquette

The Irish started out quickly and before we knew it the score was 5-0 in favor of Notre Dame. Scoring came from five different players with grad transfers Brian Tevlin and Jack Simmons notching their first goals as members of the team. Marquette came back to get the score to 5-2, but the Irish turned up the heat and led 9-2 at the end of the first quarter.

The Irish took a 13-7 lead into the half with Marquette doing a good job of catching the Irish in some unsettled situations to close the gap to six at the break.

The Irish then dominated the third period scoring three goals and allowing zero to lead 16-7 heading into the final frame. And with a lead and a comfortable margin, the Irish were able to get some additional players into the game and finished things off with a 21-10 final margin of victory.

The story of the game was the Irish attack as they came out showing how cohesive a unit they can be with Pat and Chris Kavanagh and Jeffery Ricciardelli combing for 19 points. The three passed well, were unselfish and finished from both the outside and from in close. It was fun to watch those three flourish, and as it can sometimes be tough to follow the ball inside Loftus, the passing between them was superb and the ball was sometimes barely in their sticks before it was in the back of the net. Great to see Ricciardelli get off to a hot start with five goals and one assist, and as there was some question as to who would be playing alongside the Kavanaghs with Jake Taylor still out recovering from his knee injury, Ricciardelli was steady inside. He has beyond fast hands, he’s slick, he can score from a variety of stick angles and he seems to never give the goaltender the same shot twice in a row.

The defense played well, and as we noted, allowed zero goals from Marquette in the third quarter. It was good to see the rotation of Fake, Conlin, Napolitano and Burgmaster start to get used to playing together. Across those four, no matter the combination, it was going to be three new starters, and in any situation like that, it’s always going to be interesting to see how they gel, how they play off each other and how they communicate. Coach Wellner has done a great job getting those four together and they should once again make up a very solid close defense for the Irish this year.

Liam Entenmann was his usual self and although I am sure there were a few he would have wanted back, while also wishing he had kept Marquette to single digits, he played very well (and we all know how difficult it can be for goalies to track the ball inside Loftus).

All in all, a great start for the Irish to get the season off with a victory knowing they had a quick turnaround with their second game only four days away.

Notre Dame vs Cleveland State

Sunday was a really nice day weather-wise and because of it the Irish were able to play outside in Arlotta, a rarity for February lacrosse in South Bend. There was a good crowd in the stands and you could tell they enjoyed being in the sunshine.

I had the chance to be at the game in person and thanks to Robby Hamman in the Notre Dame Athletic Department, I was able to view the game from the press box and get a real feel for all that goes into following and reporting on the Irish. It was just really cool so a THANK YOU to Robby and staff.

The matchup against Cleveland State got going at 12 PM EST and the Irish scored the first goal of the game, but Cleveland State quickly tied it up 1-1. That was the closest it would get as the Irish went on a 17-3 run to lead 18-4 before CSU scored the last four goals of the game (primarily against ND’s subs at that point).

Once again, the Irish dominated the first period of action leading 5-1 after the first fifteen minutes with Bryce Walker, Reilly Gray the Kavanagh brothers and Ben Ramsey all getting goals. Some amazing behind the back plays from the Kavanagh brothers to add to the highlights and kudos to Ramsey as that was his first career goal at Notre Dame.

Shout out as well to Cleveland State’s goalie, Cameron Logan, as he had EIGHT saves in the first quarter, many of them really good ones. Without him, the Vikings could have been facing a really large deficit after the first fifteen.

The second period saw the score get to 5-2 (same as the Marquette game) before the Irish scored the final three of the quarter to take an 8-2 lead at halftime. Heading into the break, the Kavanagh brothers had nine points between the two of them, Will Lynch was doing a good job at the faceoff (winning a lot of them to himself) and Liam had a key save with the Irish up 5-2 before Bryce Walker scored on a rocket from up top to make it 6-2.

The Irish came out firing on all cylinders in the third quarter as Quinn McCahon notched a hat trick himself in the period and the defense once again stymied Cleveland State. Colin Hagstrom got some work at faceoff doing a good job and the Irish ended the quarter up 14-4.

As the 4th quarter got underway, the Irish were looking to close things out and went up 18-4 with a little over 11 minutes to go. That gave the coaching staff the chance to get other players into the game and relieve some of the starters. The Irish would not score the rest of the way, Cleveland State had the ball for a lot of the period and scored the final four goals to create a final score of 18-8 for the Irish.

A second solid win to start the season for the Irish, and as we had the chance to interview Coach Corrigan afterwards, he had this to say about the early season wins with two huge matchups out east on the horizon over the next two weekends. “I just said to the team, we’re a better team when we come to practice on Tuesday. We’re a much better team than we were last Tuesday. For these two games, right, to have a chance to go against somebody else, to execute a game plan, you know everything’s always nice in practice because you get to stop and reset and do it again if it doesn’t work, right? And in the game you don’t get that opportunity, so just going through that, the rhythm of a game and all that, I think is really going to be good for us. But clearly also a step up in the level of competition and so we’ve got to keep getting better.”

Thoughts / What have we learned about the Irish:

If you want to not only stop the Irish, but also beat the Irish, you have to stop the Kavanaghs. 29 points through two games for them is absurd and they are such a lethal combo as they both can feed, they both can score from anywhere on the field, and once again, they come up with so many loose / ground balls. I have also really enjoyed watching them both start with the ball at X, it makes it just that much tougher for teams to stop them or get used to the Irish’s offensive playmaking tendencies. Great job by Coach Wojcik seeing the strengths that the Kavanaghs bring to the table and mixing things up, not allowing the other team to get comfortable guarding them. We could probably write a whole article on the Kavanagh brothers, but teams are going to have to pick their poison with who they are going to focus on when it comes to stopping the Irish attack. As they are both such good passers, even if you can stop them from scoring, they have no problem setting up a plethora of teammates (Pat Kavanagh already has 12 assists across two games) who are consistently putting the ball in the back of the net.

In our catch up with Coach Corrigan after the Cleveland State game, I asked him about the Kavanagh brothers as they had sixteen points (6G, 10A) across the two of them against the Vikings. Here is what Coach had to say: “Yeah, they’re pretty good. You know they both, they’re such competitors, and they really just so consistently make the right play that you’re almost like shocked when they don’t. They’re fun to watch, they’re fun obviously to have on your team, but just to watch them compete and the way they raise the level of their teammates is really good.”

Jeffery Ricciardelli had an awesome first game against Marquette, but did not get any goals against Cleveland State (he did have two assists). I am very excited to see what he does in these next two matchups as the competition will be tougher and surely more physical. To note, Jake Taylor was warming up before both games and was moving around so it will be interesting to see what his timeline for a return is, but the Irish appear to be solid on the attack end early this season (that was the struggle last year early), and will be even that much better when Jake comes back.

The Irish offensive midfield group is proving to be deep with the ability to score. Walker, Gray, McCahon, Dobson, Simmons and Tevlin have all hit the score sheet. Great to see Bryce Walker’s move from attack to midfield as we had discussed this as a possibility in our preseason article. The Irish don’t need another dodging attackman, but they can use his quickness and scoring ability at midfield, so good job on the coaches taking advantage of getting your best players on the field. I also like what I am seeing out of Jalen Seymour and it is just a matter of time before he gets into the scoring column. He is big and he can beat his man from up top or the wing.

Shouout to McCahon and Tevlin, two throw back middies who play both ways and are two of the more complete middies in all of college lacrosse.

We have not seen Will Angrick yet this year, imagine we will get an update on his status here soon.

Will Donovan and Jose Boyer have solidified themselves as the Irish LSM tandem with Donovan playing on the wing on most of the Faceoffs. Donovan, a freshman, could be next in our great line of LSMs. Boyer will be our lockdown taking most of the run against the other teams’ top midfield unit, he is so consistent and solid and he has quick hands which allow him to get in turnover-causing checks. Something to note, we also saw Brian Tevlin with a longpole on man down this past weekend. Tevlin is proving to be a Swiss army knife and one of the most valuable pieces of the Irish team this year, not to mention he is a Captain. What a grad transfer pickup for the Irish this past summer!

We all knew what we were getting in Chris Fake and Chris Conlin this year, and they have not disappointed. They have done a great job so far and now we will get the chance to see them really shine as the attacks on Georgetown and Maryland are a different level than what we have seen from Marquette and Cleveland State. It will be important to watch their communication over these next two games as these matchups could define and dictate the rest of the season. The third close defenseman playing alongside Fake and Conlin has been both Burgmaster and Napolitano. Let’s see if one of them officially locks down the spot these next two weekends.

Nick Harris, Ramsey and Carter Parlette are proving to be our three main forces at short stick middie with Ronan Doherty also coming on (he played LSM last year).

Will Lynch has done a really good job at the faceoff dot, winning a lot of the draws to himself, but as noted earlier, different beasts coming up these next two weekends. Time to be great.

At goalie, Liam has been Liam, solid and steady as always. First Team All-American caliber of play and I expect the exact same these next two weekends.

Thought the man up unit against CSU took too quick of an outside shot on a few of our man up opportunities. Would have liked to have seen some more passing across these situations and see if we could have gotten better looks. And it still seems that the Irish are tinkering their unit with Dobson, the Kavanaghs, Ricciardelli, Fulton Bayman and Griffin Westlin being the main unit so far. Not worried here as it is still early and ND’s man up unit was the best in the country last year.

Additional notes:

Thanks to Fred Assaf (father of Sam Assaf) for always sending me his picture reels after the games.

Once again thanks to Robby Hamman and the ND athletic staff and for the opportunity to interview Coach Corrigan after the game.

If you are looking for more coverage on the Irish lacrosse team this year, definitely check out good friend ND-ATL over at 18 Stripes.

Next Up:

The Irish hit the road for their first game off campus as they travel east to take on Georgetown on Saturday at 12 PM EST. The Hoyas, a pre-season top five team, have faltered here at the beginning as they are currently 0-2, but don’t read into that record as this is still one of the most talented teams in all of college lacrosse. As noted in our pre-season read on the Irish, this matchup is surely one that the Irish players have had circled on their calendars as the Hoyas took it to the Irish last year at Arlotta. Time for the revenge tour to get started. Go Irish!