One of the key aspects in my writing around the Notre Dame Men’s Lacrosse team this year has been looking back at what happened to the Irish last year as we finished the season on a six game winning streak. We were ranked 4th in the country, we were one of the most complete teams in all of college lacrosse, but yet we were somehow left out of the NCAA tournament. There have been numerous articles written about the motivating factors for this year’s team, and while some have tried to downplay it, today’s performance in DC against Georgetown seems like the start of a release of suppressed emotions stemming from what happened last May. While the Marquette and Cleveland State games were the first two on the slate, if we were all being honest to ourselves, the Georgetown matchup was the first circled that was going to give us the best feel for where the Irish were slated as it relates to the top teams in the country. Not to mention facing the Hoyas was going to give us a chance to get some revenge for a tough performance against the them in Arlotta last year.
Saturday afternoon’s performance, on a snowy and cold Georgetown campus, was the reverberating sound of a resounding drum beat as the Irish dominated from the opening faceoff whistle and went on to win 15-8 (with the score being 15-5 with a few minutes left in the 4th quarter). It was, as the ND Lacrosse twitter handle said, “STATEMENT. MADE.” It was over nine months of bottled up disappointment and questions, all being let out in a complete team performance where the Irish led from the first goal of the game and never looked back. The Irish were prepared, they were ready, they played with a passion, and they were dominant. STATEMENT. MADE. And not sure if I could sum it up better than the quotes from Georgetown Head Coach Kevin Warne after the game (from the Inside Lacrosse article): “That team is playing with a purpose this year,” Warne said of Notre Dame. “That is a Final Four, Memorial Day roster. They play hard, their lacrosse IQ is through the roof. They make so many little play. ...they are very, very, very good. …They have rallied around something that is allowing them to play at a different speed.” STATEMENT. MADE.
I was not able to watch the game as it was on a pay feed, but was able to catch a lot of the highlights and I will try and lay out the best summary I can around how the game played out here below.
The backstory and and lead up
The Hoyas were 0-2 coming into the game with losses to both Penn and Johns Hopkins. And while the Hoyas were one of the top teams in college lacrosse last year, they dipped heavy into the transfer portal and were noted as having the #1 ranked transfer class coming in (the Irish were ranked #2). As we said in last week’s write-up, while winless coming into the matchup against the Irish, the Hoyas should still be considered a top team and a top contender this year.
The Irish were 2-0 coming off of wins against the Golden Eagles and Vikings, one indoors and one outdoors, while racking up an average of nearly 20 goals per game. The team has been led by the Kavanagh brothers who came into this game with 29 points across the two of them. The defense and goaltending has been solid and steady, but Georgetown would be a chance to see how the Irish battle against a top tier opponent.
Lastly, there was the game that took place last year in Arlotta where Georgetown got out to a huge lead (11-3), the Irish made a furious comeback (got it to 11-10), but ended up losing by five. It was another early season defeat for the Irish and it was a victory that helped propel Georgetown to one of their best seasons in a long while.
The Irish got the scoring underway on their first possession with Eric Dobson notching a goal for the Irish, followed up a couple of minutes later by Chris Kavanagh for a 2-0 Irish lead. Georgetown got one back to make it 2-1 and then Dobson and Quinn McCahon pushed the Irish lead back up to 4-1 with a little over 6 minutes left in the 1st. Reilly Gray and Pat Kavanagh finished the scoring for the Irish in the quarter, but Georgetown got two more intermingled in there to make the score 6-3 the Irish after one (the Hoyas got their last goal of the quarter with 4 seconds to go before the buzzer).
The 2nd quarter saw three goals total, all coming from the Irish midfield as Gray, Brian Tevlin and Dobson all found the back of the net. That pushed the lead to 9-3 at the half, punctuated with a superb effort by the Irish defense, holding the Hoyas to only a few goals total and zero in the 2nd quarter.
At the half, Georgetown held the faceoff edge at 8-6.
With a 9-3 lead at the break, the Irish had to be careful as you knew the Hoyas would be making changes and coming out motivated to shrink the lead and get right back into it. The opening minutes / first couple of goals were going to be key and the Irish got a man up goal by Chris Kavanagh to push the lead to 10-3 a little over three minutes into the quarter. Georgetown got one back to make it 10-4, but the Irish got the next three with goals from Chris Kavanagh, Griffin Westlin and McCahon to move the lead to 13-4 before the Hoyas got one more (same as earlier with 4 seconds left in the quarter to make if 13-5) as we headed into the 4th.
A nice dish from Jack Simmons to Jeffery Ricciardelli made the score 14-4 at the 11:35 mark and then Reilly Gray got the hat trick to make it 15-5 with a little over six minutes to go. And finally, Georgetown was able to get three goals in the final three minutes of the game to make it a 15-8 Notre Dame win, the Irish moving to 3-0 on the year.
Some final thoughts
Notre Dame has used the transfer portal in the past to great success and the early season results from the portal this past summer are no different. Chris Fake and Chris Conlin have solidified the top two spots at close defense and Jack Simmons and Brian Tevlin are holding down top spots on the midfield lines. Credit to the Notre Dame coaching staff for the coaching job they have done with these new players, but also credit them with identifying players who will not only bring playmaking ability, but also fit into the culture of the team, allowing the squad the opportunity to thrive. It is not easy to have things gel in such a short time frame, and while Georgetown brought in some serious transfers with skill and talent, you can see that they are still trying to figure things out and get things completely set on their side. Georgetown has some time to turn things around, but if they don’t do so here soon, they might be looking at winning the Big East Tournament as their only chance to be playing in May.
While the attack was the star of the show in the first two games of the season, the midfield took control in this matchup with Dobson and Gray both tallying three goals, McCahon went for two and Tevlin hit for one. That is nine goals across this group and a terrific job by them in what was not easy weather conditions to be playing in on Saturday.
Chris and Pat Kavanagh combined for six points (three each) against the Hoyas, and while it was below what we have come to expect from them, think this game was a perfect showcase of how deep the Irish are. Even if you slow the Kavanagh brothers, others across the Irish can and will hurt and beat you. And that’s a really good sign for the Irish this early in the season.
Sounds like there was a really good crowd out in Washington DC for the matchup. Kudos to all who braved the weather for outside lacrosse in the snow in February!
The Irish head back to the East coast next weekend for a matchup against the Maryland Terrapins on Saturday the 4th at 1 PM EST (looks to be on the Big Ten network). This promises to be a top ten matchup and maybe even a top five matchup. The Terps are the defending champs and they are 3-1 with wins over Richmond, Syracuse and Princeton, with their lone loss coming to Loyola. The Irish look to continue their revenge tour as they lost 11-9 last year and also in OT in the quarterfinals of the NCAA tournament in 2021. Both times, with Maryland looking like the dominant team in all of college lacrosse, the Irish were pretty much one of a couple of teams that could have beat them. This will be another test and one where the Irish can make another huge statement. Let’s Go Irish! Time to be great. STATEMENT. TO. BE. MADE.