For the first time since March 26, 2022, the Notre Dame Men’s Lacrosse team lost a game. It had been 364 days since the most recent time the Irish had been outscored, and both times it was at the hands of the Cavaliers of the University of Virginia. In 2022, it was a final score of 12-8 at Klockner Stadium in Charlottesville, and on March 25th, 2023 it was a final score of 15-10 at Arlotta at the University of Notre Dame. In between that time, the Irish had won twelve straight and in 2023 had supplanted themselves as the #1 team in the country. When the polls come out on Monday, the Irish will still be in the top 4 across a crowded group of Maryland, UVA, Duke and Notre Dame. Those four have proven to be the best in the country when it comes to college lacrosse in 2023 and it should make for not only a thrilling ACC schedule, but an awesome NCAA tournament in May.
I was traveling for spring break during the Irish vs Cavalier matchup, but was able to stream the first three quarters of the game on the plane before the internet went out (I was then able to check my phone when we landed to see the final score). It was a cold, windy and snowy day in South Bend, but that did not deter Irish fans from packing the Arlotta stands and the students showing up in full force representing on the berm. There was even the Fighting Irish football team representing and cheering on their fellow Irish student-athletes following one of their spring practices. Finally, Marcus Freeman joined Paul Carcaterra and Chris Cotter in the ESPN booth to give his thoughts on both the ND lacrosse team and the ND football team. BTW, for those of you who don’t know or follow me, I am a HUGE Marcus Freeman fan. That man is exactly the person that Notre Dame needs leading our football squad. We should consider ourselves lucky he is our head coach.
The Irish got the scoring underway as Chris Kavanagh hit the back of the net assisted by brother Pat Kavanagh. It was the start the Irish wanted, but from there the Cavaliers got the next five goals to take a 5-1 advantage after the first quarter. To note, in a bit of a bad luck situation, the goal that Virginia scored to take a 2-1 lead happened when Carter Parlette’s stick broke and he had to stop guarding Jeff Conner, allowing him to score an easy goal from in front of the net.
The Irish settled down in the second quarter holding UVA to only two goals while tallying four of our own. Jose Boyer got a big goal to open the scoring in the second on a great ground ball pickup by him which led to a fast break and then his finishing on his own from the outside. With Boyer wearing #46, it was very similar to the best to wear #46, John Sexton, as he scored many a goal like this in his Notre Dame career. Ben Ramsey, Pat Kavanagh and Jake Taylor (getting his first start of the year) scored the other three for the Irish, with Taylor’s goal coming with 21 seconds left before halftime to get the score to 7-5 at the break.
The third quarter saw the Irish get the first two with Chris and Pat Kavanagh scoring to notch the game at 7-7. Arlotta was ROCKING, the crowd was feeling it. But it would not last as the Cavs got the next four to take an 11-7 lead before Jeffery Ricciardelli scored on the man up to make it 11-8 with just over four minutes left in the period. The Cavs got the next two before Quinn McCahon scored with 10 seconds to go to get the Irish within 13-9 with just over fifteen minutes to go in the game.
The fourth quarter saw three goals with UVA going up 15-9 before Taylor got the last Irish score to finish with a 15-10 final. The Irish dropped to 6-1 overall and 0-1 in the ACC for the season.
Some Notes and Thoughts
It just did not seem like our day at Arlotta. And a lot can account for that so let’s get into things a little:
To start, I am not going to discount what UVA did and the talent they have. As we said in our Exit 77 podcast, even though they had just dropped their last game to Maryland, UVA is still one of the best and most talented teams in the country. It starts with Connor Shellenberger and he did not disappoint with two goals and five assists on the day. Along with him, Xander Dickson had six goals and one assist, scoring a plethora of goals off picks in the middle right in front of the cage. Those two were the difference on the offensive end for Virginia. On defense, and we talked about this on the podcast too, the Cavs are long, big and tall and they were able to disrupt the normally balanced Irish offensive sets. We did not seem like we could get into an offensive rhythm and really our best stretch probably came when we scored the last three goals of the second and first two goals of the third to tie things at 7-7.
One of the biggest learning experiences of this game was how the Irish will defend Shellenberger and Dickson the next time these two teams play at UVA on April 30th. Dickson was able to get free off picks way too many times and he finished every time in close. A lot of attention gets put on Payton Cormier on the inside, but in this game it was Dickson who made the difference. I have full faith in Coach Wellner and the Irish’s close defense to make the adjustments moving forward and make sure that the Irish do a better job defending this trio the next time we play.
Another area where UVA was able to disrupt the Irish was with their ten man ride. They used their goalie Matthew Nunes as a part of their ride and the Irish had some struggles breaking it. Same thing, another area where we can improve and I expect to see some wrinkles the next time we face this ride in Charlottesville.
Speaking of Nunes, he played probably his best game of the year on Saturday as he out-dueled Liam Entenmann. I will give him credit as he made lots of timely saves, but I do expect things to be more in the Irish’s favor next time at UVA.
Great to see Jake Taylor fully healthy and back in the starting lineup. He hit a few pipes on the day, normally those are situations where he puts them home, but really good to get him back out there and fully a part of the lineup. We all know the dimension he brings to the Irish offense and we know he can be counted on from here on in. Additionally, awesome to see Ricciardelli get back into the scoring column with his man-up goal (a big confidence boost for him). And having Taylor and Ricciardelli both on the man-up unit makes the Irish just that much more difficult to defend.
Faceoffs are still an issue as the Irish went 12-29 on the day. We did a good job of mixing things up with Will Lynch and Colin Hagstrom both out there and switching off a good amount. Maybe this is the path we take moving forward?
The bench got small this week and while this happens against top tier opponents, I wonder if we could have used Jalen Seymour out there. For the game, our middies had two goals and four assists, and one of those goals came from Ben Ramsey, one of our SSDMs. Would have been nice to mix things up a little and give Seymour some run, especially as we have talked about how any additional middies will give our top six some rest and help our depth / fitness as the season moves along. All this being said, I do not expect another game this year where we get zero goals across Brian Tevlin, Reilly Gray, Bryce Walker, Eric Dobson and Jack Simmons. They have been too good this year, it was an off day for those five and know they will be raring to go next weekend to make up for it.
Kudos again to all who showed up at Arlotta on Saturday. That is not fun weather to be watching lacrosse in and the place was buzzing. Amazing!
The Irish look to get back in the win column as we head to Syracuse to face a young but talented Orange on Saturday, April 1st in the Dome. It’s a 2 PM EST start and will be Notre Dame’s first look at Joey Spallina, the #1 ranked freshman coming into this year (he wears the patented #22 for Syracuse). Pat Kavanagh has owned the Orange of late and the boys should be ready to go and get back to showing everyone the complete team that we are.
As always, don’t forget to check out our good friends at 18stripes for their latest on the ND lacrosse team.
Let’s Go Irish!