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Notre Dame Men’s Lacrosse, in a stellar performance, defeats #1 Duke

The Fighting Irish will be #1 in the rankings on Monday as they won 17-12 on Saturday.

Chris Kavanagh scores against Duke. He led the way with five goals on the day for the Irish.
Photo Credit: Fred Assaf

When you walk around the Notre Dame campus on Monday night, take a stroll through South Quad and visit dorms like Morrissey Manor and Alumni Hall (feel free to skip Dillon Hall, there is nothing to see there). Head on down to the Grotto to say some prayers for loved ones, walk through God Quad and then stop by Stonehenge as you make your way to the North Quad and dorms like Keenan Hall and Cavanaugh. On your last stop, walk by Flanner and Grace Halls and as you are passing Grace, lift your head upwards, set your gaze to the roof and on top you will see the #1 lit up in honor of the Notre Dame Men’s lacrosse team. The Fighting Irish will ascend once again to the #1 ranking following their Saturday afternoon win against Duke at Arlotta in front of over 5,000 fans.

The final score was 17-12 on a beautiful day at Notre Dame, and the while we have seen some really good performances from the Irish this year, this was probably our all around best game as it came against a Blue Devils squad that was 10-1, ranked #1 and probably playing the best lacrosse in the country. It was great to see the Irish rise to the occasion and continue to show championship level lacrosse as we look to take home our first ever National Championship in May.

Due to the Easter holiday weekend, I was not able to watch the game live (I did follow along on the Twitter score feed - thanks ND sporting info team for the scorebook feed), but had the chance to watch the replay later on Saturday night. Let’s get things underway with our quarter by quarter recap and then give our overall thoughts and notes.

First Quarter

Paul Carcaterra and Anish Shroff were on the call for the game and they are easily my two favorite from a lacrosse game calling perspective. And I think they hit it on the head as the first quarter looked a little jittery for each team as they were both feeling each other out. We saw five total goals in the quarter with Duke getting the scoring started off and the Irish tying things up a few minutes later with an Eric Dobson goal (it’s coming to the point where we can just about pencil in Dobson getting our first goal of each game). Duke made it 2-1 before the Irish tied things up with a nice feed from Jack Simmons and a goal from Jake Taylor at the doorstep. Duke then got the last of the quarter and it was a 3-2 Duke advantage after one.

Second Quarter

This is where the Irish won the game as they outscored Duke 7-1 in this frame to take a 9-4 advantage into halftime. Ben Ramsey got things underway as he picked up a ground ball in the ND defensive end of the field, got the fast break going and when Duke failed to match up on him, he took an outside shot on the run to knot the score at 3-3. Chris Kavanagh then got the Irish to 4-3 and Taylor made it 5-3 with just over ten minutes to go in the quarter. We then saw the goal of the game as Pat Kavanagh dropped in a BTB goal from in front of the cage following a BTB pass from Taylor, all while the shot clock was about to expire. And as the announcers like to say, we call that a “juice goal.”

Duke then got things to within 6-4 before the Irish scored the final three with Pat Kavanagh, Chris Kavanagh (on the man-up) and then Dobson with his second of the day with nine seconds to go. It was a clinical quarter for the Irish as they shut down Duke’s potent attack and took a five goal lead into the break (more to come on Notre Dame’s defense later).

Third Quarter

Dobson got things going with his third of the day to get the Irish out to a 10-4 lead before two straight from the Blue Devils got it to 10-6 (one of the goals being a man-up blast from Brennan O’Neill). The Irish then scored the next two with a goal from Simmons, followed by a beautiful fast break led by Jose Boyer who passed to Pat Kavanagh who then hit Brian Tevlin in front to get the score to 12-6 Irish with a little over eight minutes to go in the quarter.

Duke then went on a little run getting the next three goals to get the score to within 12-9. The last two goals of their run came across nine seconds which shows how quickly things can change in the game of lacrosse. The Irish then held strong across a very important Duke possession (more to come on this later) before Pat Kavanagh got his third goal of the day to get the score to 13-9 Irish as we headed into the last fifteen minutes.

Fourth Quarter

The Irish put the game away as we scored the first four goals of the quarter in the opening six minutes to take a 17-9 lead. Chris Kavanagh got the first two, Reilly Gray then scored before Chris Kavanagh got his fifth of the day on a running rocket from the outside.

From there Duke scored the final three goals of the game with the last one being a man-up goal with just over two minutes to go. The final score was Notre Dame 17 / Duke 12 as the #2 Irish defeated the #1 Blue Devils. The Irish will certainly be #1 with the new rankings coming out on Monday as they move to 8-1 overall and 2-1 in the ACC.

Some Notes and Thoughts

We talked about it in last week’s column, but the omission of the Notre Dame defense (outside of goalie Liam Entenmann) from Inside Lacrosse’s mid season All-American teams was difficult to understand. Led by Coach Wellner, the Irish have one of the most efficient and best defenses in the country, and they proved it again on Saturday as THE story of this game was the Notre Dame defense. The job they did against the Duke attack was superb, and coming into this game I think it would be fair to say that Duke has one of the best attack and best overall offensive units in the country. The Irish, led all day by Chris Fake, did an unreal job of slowing down the Blue Devils and limiting them throughout the afternoon. Brennan O’Neill had one point on the day (a goal on the man-up), and was as laid out by Paul Carcaterra on the broadcast, Fake was able to use his body and strength to go up against O’Neill who is used to overpowering his defenders. To note, I think they said on the broadcast that O’Neill had had at least four points in his last 23 games or so. The entire defensive unit learned a lot from the UVA game and it was a complete team effort slowing down and stopping Duke. Definitely looking forward to the Inside Lacrosse end of the season All-American rankings as I think a couple more from the Irish defense deserve to be on that list.

Speaking of Liam Entenmann, he once again came up big in the biggest moment of the game and proved why he is the best goalie in the country. With the Irish up 12-9 in the third and Duke on a three goal run, Liam made multiple stops on the Blue Devils to keep the Irish lead at three. It was a huge segment in the game as you could feel the momentum swinging to the visitors, and a goal at that time would have cut the lead to two and for sure Duke would have been buzzing. But Liam shut the door and then Pat Kavanagh got the Irish a goal to put us up 13-9 as we entered the fourth.

While the defense was the story of the game, we simply cannot say say enough about the Irish’s four-headed monster that was Pat and Chris Kavanagh, Jake Taylor and Eric Dobson. Across the four of them they accounted for 20 points on the day with 13 goals and 7 assists. It was a lights out performance from the foursome with Pat Kavanagh leading the way with eight points. We have discussed it before around these four, but we are seeing greatness in Pat Kavanagh, Chris Kavanagh is a complete attackman, Jake Taylor is an elite inside finisher and Eric Dobson is one of the best offensive middies in the country. Pick your poison against the Irish and kudos again to Coach Wojcik and the offensive philosophy he has implemented this year.

There was a good write-up on the game by Terry Foy at Inside Lacrosse with some interesting quotes in there from Coach Corrigan as the Irish have next weekend off (we do not play again until Saturday, April 22nd). I have been advocating for a deeper midfield bench all season and it looks like Coach wants to take the next two weeks to find some more players and more team depth, presumably at midfield: “For us, what I said to our guys, we had to have some new pieces, guys that played bigger roles today than they’ve been asked to play so far this season. But we’ve got to find even more guys during this bye week,” he says. “Whether it’s identifying and figuring out the best way to use the guys that we have, when you get to May, it’s tough to get by with the number of guys you were playing in February. So we’ve got to make sure we’re continuing to develop those guys and they have to know that we need them. Not next year — now.” Jalen Seymour saw some run against Duke and we saw more of Griffin Westlin at the midfield as well. Who else might be called upon to step up? The Irish have two weeks to get a few more guys involved and let’s keep an eye on some of the middies we have seen throughout this year for brief stretches: Fisher Finley, Christian Alacqua and Max Busenkell,

All of this becomes more paramount as Nick Harris did not play at SSDM on Saturday (presumably because of an injury although there was no official word). Let’s hope he is all right as Ramsey and Carter Parlette were forced into some serious minutes against Duke. To note, tremendous job by those two in the game as they really stepped up with their fellow SSDM teammate out for the day.

Our last thoughts on the game have to do with what Anish and Paul shared during the broadcast around the team and their motivations around this year. We have talked a whole lot around the disappointment from last year and those two had the chance to interview some of the players and the coaches leading up to the game. We heard how Pat Kavanagh and Max Manyak hung up the 2022 NCAA Lacrosse bracket in each player’s locker room. We heard Paul and Anish go through how the players laid out that (and I am paraphrasing) “we only are guaranteed twelve games this year, that is it.” We heard them talk about how the current players relied on Irish lacrosse alumni to help them through what happened last year. We heard about how Brian Tevlin was received as a new teammate and the leadership he brought in in a few short months, and how he was eventually named a Captain. And we heard how Coach Corrigan made it a point of emphasis to have the team leave their thoughts on last year to fall ball and not let it bleed into the spring season. Coach Corrigan wanted this team to have their own identity / their own journey and be focused on what was ahead this year and not dwell on the past.

This year’s team is taking full advantage of the guaranteed twelve game schedule they have. They are ranked #1 right now, but they want more, they are freight train that is looking to arrive in Philadelphia in late May.

Next Up

The Irish get some much needed rest and let’s hope the coaching staff as well gets to spend some time away for a little bit with their families. The season can be a grind so everyone getting some reset is always good. No game this upcoming weekend, but the Irish should still be ranked #1 when they take on the University of North Carolina in the final home game of the 2023 season on Saturday, April 22nd at 12 PM EST at Arlotta. It will be the final home game for a lot of the Irish seniors and graduate students and should be a great chance for the fans the show their appreciation for the team and the coaches. Sure as well there will be tons of players’ parents in attendance (as there always is). It will be our first of two matchups against UNC as we will also play them down in Chapel Hill for the last game of the year. And if fans are looking for even more reason to get to ND for the day, that afternoon will also be the Blue-Gold game so lots of Irish fans will have their first chance to see Sam Hartman and the Coach Marcus Freeman’s Irish in action as they get ready for the 2023 season. It doesn’t get much better than that, watch the Irish in lacrosse and then head on over to Notre Dame Stadium to see the Irish in football. I plan to be there and am excited to be get back to Arlotta for the second time this year following my watching of the Notre Dame vs Cleveland State game earlier in the year.

As always, don’t forget to check out our good friends at 18stripes for all their thoughts on the Irish lacrosse team. And one last thing.....LIGHT UP GRACE HALL!! The Irish are #1.