For college lacrosse fans, there is not much better than Championship Weekend. It is the culmination of the season, and each year, four lucky teams have the chance to play on Memorial Day weekend with Saturday being the semi-final matchup and then the winners playing on Monday to decide who is the college lacrosse champion. For the 2023 Notre Dame Men’s Lacrosse team, Championship Weekend has been on their minds since May of 2022. The printed brackets from the 2022 season that have adorned the locker room, the work over the summer, the coming together during fall ball, they have all been a reminder that the 2023 season has the chance to be a special one and a year that this team will not let others forget. There has been a destination in mind since school started in August. It has always been Philadelphia and Lincoln Financial Field and the chance to actually have the chance to prove things out on the field. Prove that Notre Dame lacrosse is the best. And on a beautiful Sunday afternoon in Annapolis, MD the Irish’s ticket was punched to Championship Weekend with the opportunity to play for glory on Memorial Day.
While there is still more to prove, one could tell the excitement and relief of the boys and the coaching staff as the final whistle blew with Notre Dame’s 12-9 win over Johns Hopkins in front of a great crowd on the campus of the United States Naval Academy.
The Irish have locked in our spot next weekend with the opportunity to win it all.
Let’s take a look at how it all went down.
MEET US AT THE LINC ☘️#GoIrish☘️ pic.twitter.com/8DZNIOGlQ7— Notre Dame Lacrosse (@NDlacrosse) May 21, 2023
The game got off to a fast start as the Irish offense came out clicking, but after a few good sets the Irish were denied as there were big saves on Jake Taylor, Jack Simmons and then the cross bar was hit by Chris Kavanagh. Hopkins got on the board first as they got a fast break that led to a goal by one of their long-poles to take the 1-0 advantage. From there the Irish had a great ride by Pat Kavanagh that caused a turnover and shortly after Jack Simmons scored his first of the game to knot the score up 1-1. A slash on Hopkins led to a Notre Dame man-up opportunity and with our patented Pat Kavanagh to Jeffery Ricciardelli to Chris Kavanagh, our inside outside action, ND took a 2-1 lead as Chris buried it home from the outside wing. Hopkins tied things up shortly after that before Jake Taylor got a rebound goal in front of the cage to make it 3-2. The back and forth battle continued with the Blue Jays tying things at 3-3 and then there came a pivotal moment that could have been a huge momentum swing: coming off the Hopkins tying goal, the Irish won the faceoff, but were called offsides, Hopkins went fast and had a fast break, but the pass was dropped on the doorstep for what would have been an easy tally. It would have been a juice goal, but instead the score stayed 3-3. Huge moment for sure. The Irish would then get the last goal of the quarter off a great feed from Eric Dobson hitting Jalen Seymour on the backside for a 4-3 Irish lead at the end of one.
HERE COME THE IRISH!#GoIrish☘️ pic.twitter.com/RewNtxnHE9— Notre Dame Lacrosse (@NDlacrosse) May 21, 2023
The Blue Jays got the opening faceoff and had a deliberate possession and scored when there looked to be some defensive confusion between Chris Conlin and Quinn McCahon. It was 4-4 at this point and that would be all that Hopkins would get before halftime. Fulton Bayman came on to start the second quarter at attack, and after a few possessions, Simmons found Chris Kavanagh up top and he let it rip to put the Irish up 5-4. And in a similar fashion from up top, after a few Irish possessions in a row, Eric Dobson put the Irish up 6-4 with 7:28 to go in the half. The Irish would finish the scoring with Simmons scoring again to put the Irish up 7-4 with just under two minutes to go till half. And that is where we would be as we headed to the break.
Time and Space https://t.co/TTXMCQo5hW— Notre Dame Lacrosse (@NDlacrosse) May 21, 2023
Johns Hopkins got the scoring underway early on to get within 7-5 and then got to within 7-6 with eight minutes to go. You could see the Blue Jays were gaining momentum, but the Irish were able to stem the tide as Taylor got another one just over thirty seconds later to make the score 8-6. It was a HUGE goal. From there Simmons got his third of the day coming from behind X to make it 9-6 with just under six minutes to go in the period. Finally, Taylor got his hat trick to make the score 10-6 (off a great feed from Chris Kavanagh) and that is where the third quarter closed out.
GOAL IRISH!— Notre Dame Lacrosse (@NDlacrosse) May 21, 2023
Dobson finds Taylor for his 2nd of the day and we lead by 2! Watch on ESPNU.#GoIrish pic.twitter.com/eFyg8paeRg
Seymour got the scoring underway for the Irish as he put us up 11-6 with a little over eleven minutes to go. With the win in sight, the Irish were looking to have meaningful possessions and with nine minutes to go the Blue Jays still did not even have a shot in the quarter. Soon they got two goals back to make it 11-8 with 7:35 to go. After that there was a lot of back and forth play and when the Irish got the ball back with under three to go, Hopkins was forced to double, and Chris Kavanagh was able to beat it and scored his third of the day to make it 12-8. The Blue Jays got one back quickly to make it 12-9 and had a chance shortly after that to get another, but a big save from Liam Entenmann kept them off the board. And that would be the last of the scoring as the Irish secured our spot in Championship Weekend in Philadelphia with a final score of 12-9 over the Blue Jays.
FEELING G☘️☘️D— Notre Dame Lacrosse (@NDlacrosse) May 21, 2023
Keep it rollin! #GoIrish☘️ pic.twitter.com/f8NP9fE7O5
Some Notes and Thoughts
Can we talk a little bit about the Notre Dame defense? The Johns Hopkins attack of Angelus, Degnon and Melendenz accounted for 19 points in their opening round win against Bryant. Notre Dame’s defense held them to four goals and two assists. That’s six total total points. Across the second and third quarters, the Irish defense gave up three goals. During the second quarter, Hopkins went over ten minutes without even getting off a shot. That is ELITE and to do it in the biggest game of the year so far is very telling of the coaching, the preparation and just the overall skill and teamwork of the close defense, our goalie, our LSMs and our SSDM units. In a game where we were held below our 16 goal average, we needed our defense to step up big time. They delivered.
Only fitting that the game ended with the ball in Liam Entenmann’s stick as the clock hit zeros. The team gathered for hugs around their goalie, one of their emotional leaders and one of the best players in all of lacrosse. It was a cathartic moment and Liam had this to say after the game as quoted in the USA Lacrosse Magazine article: “It was really hard for us last year not making the tournament, and I think the guys that were returning to the team set out right then and there and said our goal is to win the national championship the next year,” Irish goalie Liam Entenmann said. “At the same time, that took daily preparation, daily effort from every guy on the team. That’s top to bottom. … I think that’s what separates this team from other teams I’ve been on, the absolute buy-in from every single guy.”
It was a tough go at the faceoff dot for the Irish as we switched up Will Lynch and Colin Hagstom throughout the day, but not a lot was working. With Lynch winning so much to himself last week against Utah, I think everyone was hoping to see a little more of that this Saturday, but it was not to be. The Irish finished the day at 33% winning 8 of 24, although that number was a little better in the end as the Irish were able to cause some quick turnovers on a few of the faceoffs that Hopkins won.
In the first half, Hopkins’ Scott Smith pressed out on Pat Kavanagh and pretty much tried to take him out of our offense. While teams have certainly put their best defenseman on Pat Kavanagh throughout the year, this might have been the first time we have really seen a team try to have the Irish play five on five on the offensive side of the field while negating Pat. The good thing for the Irish is that we have lots of players who can make you pay, and if our opponent chooses to try to completely take one out, five others are ready and willing to go. Before the game, anyone have Pat Kavanagh getting only one point in this game and the Irish winning by three?
And speaking of someone ready and willing to go, Jack Simmons came to play on Saturday. It was his absolute best game of the year, he finished with four points (3G, 1A) and he was a pivotal point of our offensive sets. You could tell the coaches were looking to set him up and get him isolated at X in order to take his defender in one on ones. And it doesn’t go unnoticed that he is a fifth year player who has won championships before at UVA. He has the experience, he has been here before and it was great to see him step up in such a huge way. Not to be outdone, add to what Jack did with two goals from Jalen Seymour and it was great to see some of our unsung heroes really play to their highest potential on the biggest stage.
Nice to hear Anish and Quint talk up Ben Ramsey on the ESPNU broadcast of the game. Maybe they have been reading my articles ;). They mentioned how he has gone largely unnoticed by the national media, how he is one of the better SSDMs in the country and how his future is really bright. Great to finally see and hear what I think a lot of us who follow the Irish already know and see on a weekly basis.
Congrats to the members of the team who graduated this past weekend. As they were not on campus on Sunday for the ceremony with their fellow classmates, the players were celebrated on Saturday with their families in Annapolis, MD. That’s what it is all about, getting your degree from the University of Notre Dame, and welcome to the new alumni of our university.
A special shoutout to all of our #ND2023 seniors on the @NDlacrosse team!— University of Notre Dame (@NotreDame) May 21, 2023
What's better than graduating with your classmates in Notre Dame Stadium? Clinching a spot in the @NCAA Lacrosse Final Four!
They held their own ceremony yesterday. #GoIrish ☘️ pic.twitter.com/arsLxX6EOz
Championship Weekend gets underway this Saturday at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia as two games will be played that day with the winners meeting on Memorial Day to crown the 2023 Men’s Lacrosse National Champion. Duke beat Michigan and Virginia beat Georgetown this past Saturday, and then this past Sunday Penn State beat ARMY. So we will see in the first matchup on Saturday, Duke taking on Penn State at 12 PM EST followed by our Irish taking on the Cavaliers with a 2:30 PM EST start. We have the #1, #2, #3 and #5 seeds all making it to Philly with a chance to take home the crown. Three ACC teams and one Big Ten team.
May 21, 2023
As we discussed in our NCAA tournament preview article, I think we all pretty much expected to see Notre Dame versus Virginia in a semi-final matchup. It will be the third time these two teams have met this year with the Cavs handing the Irish our only two losses on the season. And in our last 21 games (across 2022 and 2023), the Irish are 18-3 with all three losses coming to Virginia.
My plan is to do a Notre Dame versus Virginia matchup look later this week, but I will leave you with this:
Duke and Virginia. I think we all knew that for our Irish to take home our first national championship, we would have to go through one or maybe two of them. So why not do it the hard way? This team knows no other way right now, so all I have to say is...Let’s Go.
We can’t ask for much more as we have a chance to avenge our only losses this year, then possibly vanquish a team that has beaten us five straight times in the postseason. And through it all, whenever we step on the field, we will have the chance to prove that we are the better and the best team. The best teams want to play the best and why would we not want to have one more chance to start to prove things on the field on Saturday afternoon against UVA? For our Irish, it’s a one game mentality, it is a win or go home mindset, it is the chance to show that we have the heart of a champion. I will be there on Saturday watching in person and for those who want to pick against the Irish, do so at your own peril. As it relates to Virginia, it feels like this season has been building toward this specific matchup, in this specific situation, with all with these stakes. And I like our coaches, I like our defense, I like our goalie, I like our midfield, I like our long-poles, I like our SSDMs, I like our attack, I like our bench, I like our fans and I like how our team has handled this entire season. I especially like these two: Watch this video that came out this past week from Paul Carcaterra and you will see the sincerity, the will, and the desire with which these two want to win Notre Dame’s first ever National Championship in lacrosse. I am not betting against them and I am not betting against their teammates.
See you in Philly and Go Irish! It really is Time to be Great...
And as always, follow our good friends at 18Stripes for all their looks at our Irish lacrosse team as well.