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Notre Dame Men’s Lacrosse dominates Utah 20-7 as the NCAA tournament gets underway

The Irish get out to an 8-0 lead after one quarter and never look back

Notre Dame celebrates the win over Utah
Photo Credit: Martha Assaf

If you were watching the Notre Dame versus Utah lacrosse game on ESPNU on Saturday afternoon, you could not help but hear the talk around how last year has fueled this year’s team. And in true fashion to how they have handled just about every game this year, the Irish came out ready to go and took care of business in front of a big crowd at Arlotta on a perfect day temperature-wise in South Bend. Making their first tournament appearance since May of 2021, the Irish got out fast to an 8-0 start and dictated the style of play from minute one. Utah, the upstarts from the ASUN were not able to get set before they found themselves in a big hole, and while they played some of their chaotic style early in the second quarter, they could not get close to their almost 17 goal per game average as they were held to seven total goals on the day. It was a great season for Utah and they will be back next year as their style of play is fast and fun and that will for sure draw recruits, especially those who are talented as they will have the chance to get on the field early out West.

But this was not to be their year as the Utes ran into the buzzsaw that is the Notre Dame lacrosse team, one that has a singular focus and is not going to be denied. The Irish started this year as a freight train and they continue to roll toward their goal of Championship weekend in Philadelphia.

Let’s get into it, take a look at how the 20-7 Irish win happened and what took place in the tournament first round matchup against Utah.

First Quarter

The Irish got off to a tremendous start as they outscored Utah 8-0 in the first quarter. Getting things going for Notre Dame was Reilly Gray coming behind from X and scoring on a nice shot a little under four minutes into the game. From there Chris Kavanagh got his first of the day, followed by two goals from Jake Taylor and then Gray again to make the score 5-0 Irish with just under eight minutes to go in the first. Taylor then got his natural hat trick making it 6-0, Griffin Westlin got his first of the day and finally Ross Burgmaster scored to make it 8-0 Irish. And will put the tweet here below, but Ross’ goal was one of the more fun ones you will ever see as it was pole to pole to pole as Chris Conlin passed to Will Donovan who passed to Burgmaster. Not sure I have ever seen two long pole passes from in close that then led to a long pole goal. Really cool!

Second Quarter

Utah got off to a fast start in the second quarter as they scored the first three goals of the period to cut the Irish lead to 8-3. Notre Dame stopped play with a well-timed time out to gather their composure as it was paramount to not let Utah back into the game. From there we saw lots of back and forth action and some really nice saves on both ends of the field before the Irish broke through to make it 9-3 off Pat Kavanagh’s first of the game with just under four to go before halftime. Pat Kavanagh then got another before Taylor and Ben Ramsey scored to make the score 12-3 Irish at halftime.

Third Quarter

The Irish tallied the first four goals of the second half to put the game away as we took a 16-3 lead with goals from Taylor, Jalen Seymour, Gray and then Pat Kavanagh. Utah got two back with the last one coming off a bouncer with one second left in the third to make the score 16-5 Irish at the end of three.

Fourth Quarter

Utah got the scoring going seven seconds into the fourth as they won the faceoff and took it in for a quick goal making it a 16-6 Notre Dame advantage. The Irish then got back into the scoring column as Jeffery Ricciardelli put one in from close off a nice feed from Jack Simmons. From there Chris Kavanagh scored followed by tallies from Westlin and Fulton Bayman to make the score 20-6 Irish. Utah then got the last goal of the game with just under three minutes to go and that is where we would end with the Irish winning 20-7 and moving onto the quarterfinals next weekend against Johns Hopkins.

Some Notes and Thoughts

As we talked about in last week’s article, Utah was coming in hot on an eleven game winning streak, having locked in their ticket into the tournament through winning the ASUN conference championship. They were the underdog with nothing to lose and one would imagine they were buzzing when the game got underway. With our Irish jumping out to an 8-0 lead, we completely took Utah out of their game and we did not allow them to get any sort of “we can win this game” thoughts in their head. And that was so huge as any sort of momentum in that first quarter could have led to Utah playing better and punching above their weight. Even when Utah was able to get three early goals in the second quarter to cut it to 8-3, the Irish were able to weather the storm with some great saves from Liam Entenmann, and then we scored the last four goals of the half to make it 12-3 with two periods to go. That is championship caliber lacrosse and what our Irish have proven they can do all season.

It was a game of runs in this match up as the Irish scored the first eight goals, Utah then got the next three, the Irish got the next eight, Utah got the next three, the Irish got the next four and then Utah got the last one. Definitely interesting how that all took place, but for the Irish to get two streaks of eight straight goals just shows how talented we are on both the offensive and defensive sides of the field.

Great job by the coaching staff this week - Coach Corrigan, Coach Wellner, Coach Wojcik and Coach Garnsey. The players were coming off finals and they had finally reached one of their goals from last year in making the tournament. The team could have had a bad week of practice and they could have come out flat / nervous. They did the exact opposite and were locked in and ready to go when the whistle sounded. The announcers on the broadcast talked about how Coach Corrigan said a lot of the focus this week was on “less is more” and not putting too much on the team’s plate. It showed as there was a calmness and a confidence to the Irish that was visible from the start.

The Irish continued to hand their opponent their worst loss of the season as Utah previously lost a game at most this year by eight goals. The thirteen goal differential against the Irish was their largest of the season by far. And in the Irish’s eleven wins this year, nine of those wins were the worst defeat for their opponents (the other two that were not - one was the OT win against Maryland and the other was the first win against UNC when the Irish won by seven before beating them by eight the second time around).

So good to see what Will Lynch was able to do at the faceoff dot in his matchup. Lynch finished the game at 15-19 and there were long stretches where it seemed like Utah did not even have the ball in their offensive side of the field. And unlike in most of our contests where the wings have played a huge role, Lynch did an incredible job of winning the faceoffs to himself, gaining possession right away and then taking it into the offensive side of the field. Kudos to Will and to the coaching staff, they must have seen something on the Utah film that would allow Lynch to capitalize and win the draws to himself. If we can continue to see this level of play from Lynch, it just makes our Irish that much harder to beat as faceoffs have been about one of the only areas of concern for Notre Dame this year.

While he is now a known commodity, and while he has been very consistent this year, I feel like we have not spent a lot of time in our articles talking enough about Jake Taylor. This was probably his best game of the season and he finished with five goals on nine total shots. He continues to find spots within the opposing team’s defense where he gets free and finishes from inside. His rapport with Pat Kavanagh is ridiculous (Kavanagh assisted on four of his five goals this game) and even though teams know what he is going to do, Taylor still gets the job done. On one goal, it was either his second or third of the day, Taylor cycled through the middle twice. The first time he was not open, but he just went back and did the same loop he did before, and the second time he was open, was fed by Kavanagh and he scored the goal. His ability to find creases in the defense and his finishing shot is almost unparalleled. It truly is amazing what he has been able to accomplish since the Notre Dame vs Syracuse game in 2022 (casually dropping eight goals in his first career start).

Superb great game from Reilly Gray. As Eric Dobson did not get a point in this contest, it was even more key that Gray step up and take advantage of his matchup. With Gray playing on the same line as Dobson, he is usually going to get the short-stick and he took advantage of it on Saturday, whether dodging from up top or taking his defender to X to then come around the cage to score from up close. Again, this is another thing that Johns Hopkins will have to plan for and if they long-pole Dobson (which I suspect they will), then they will have to be okay with short-sticking Gray and then watching him take his defender to X.

Great to see Bryce Walker out there in the second half. It was his first game back in a few weeks, and while he looks pretty healthy, he still needs to get his game speed back before he is back to 100% and playing on the top midfield lines. Will be interesting to see what we get from Walker this weekend and hopefully he starts to creep his way back up to the top two lines. He is a huge piece to our midfield with his ability to dodge from up top so getting him back is huge.

We continue to see Fulton Bayman out there with the Irish rotating out our attackmen a whole lot more than we have done int the past. Just awesome work by Bayman to put himself into consideration this late in the season and I think it speaks to his preparation and his desire to get out there as the coaching staff is finding it hard to not get him in the rotation. In the end, it all really says a lot about him as a player and his leadership ability as a senior in the program. I think it is also a good move as he brings a little different element to the attack, it lets us keep everyone’s legs more fresh (especially for our ride) and when he has been in, Bayman has played well (he even scored the last goal of the game on Saturday).

If you missed it, here is a wonderful article on Ross Burgmaster and his role as the Notre Dame bagpiper. It is a tradition that separates Notre Dame from all other programs and it has been fun to watch Ross over the last couple of years lead the Irish onto the field. The story gives more background on the role of the bagpiper, how they get chosen and then the work that Irish player has to put in to make it all happen. This year, Ross has been joined by Brian Tevlin who grew up playing the bagpipes. So really, really awesome.

Congrats to the Notre Dame Women’s lacrosse team who advanced to the Quarterfinals with two wins this past weekend (with the last win in dramatic fashion as the Irish scored with ten seconds to go to win). And with their joining the men in the Quarterfinals, Notre Dame is the only school in the country to have its men’s and women’s lacrosse teams in the quarters. Let’s Go Irish, let’s make it the only school in the country to have both teams in the Final Four!

I was six for eight with my NCAA tournament picks and the two games I lost (Michigan vs Cornell and Penn State vs Princeton) were both decided by one goal (with one in OT). So close, but that does not count in the game of lacrosse ;). From a second round matchup perspective, here is who I had in my bracket:

Duke over Cornell (now Michigan)

Princeton (now Penn State) over ARMY

Notre Dame over Johns Hopkins

Virginia over Georgetown

Next Up

The matchups are set for next weekend and the #3 seeded Irish will take on the #6 seeded Blue Jays of Johns Hopkins. It’s been a resurgent season for Johns Hopkins as they are back in the tournament following a strong regular season in the Big Ten. For those who follow lacrosse, you know that Johns Hopkins is one of the blue bloods of the sport and one of the more storied teams in college lacrosse history. They have a huge lacrosse alumni network and they are very proud of their Blue Jays and their program. They have had a few down years of late, but this year they have come out and proven to be a top ten team in the country.

The Blue Jays took care of Bryant in their opening round matchup with a score of 22-8 and they looked really good as they went on a fifteen goal run to put the game out of reach.

The Quarterfinal game time is set for Sunday at 2:30 PM EST on ESPNU and the matchup will be at NAVY Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis, Maryland. It will be a homecoming for Coach Wellner who spent eight seasons on the USNA staff prior to coming to Notre Dame.

We talked about it in last week’s article, but we have reached the point of the year where it is a one game season from here on out. What you have done in the past does not matter and what does matter is being the best team on the field when the whistle blows. In the eight first round games of the tournament this year, five of the games were decided by two or fewer goals with four of those decided by one goal. Any team can win any week if you are not prepared and you are not ready to go. You need to have a focus, you need to be dialed in and play with an attitude that you are the best team on the field and no one is going to take that away from you. And that is one of the things that I think has separated this year’s Irish. We have a singular mindset on the task that is at hand and a laser focus on the game that is about to be played. This was honed in the offseason, it was forged in the fall and it has come to fruition each and every time the Irish have stepped on the field. Our Irish will be ready to go on Sunday at 2:30 PM EST and I fully expect us to be victorious and punch our ticket to the Final Four. “Time to be Great” and see you in Philly on the 27th.

Go Irish!

And as always, check out our friends at 18stripes for their latest on the Notre Dame men’s lacrosse team.