This past weekend on Sunday afternoon, in front of a packed house on the campus of the University of Virginia, the Notre Dame Men’s lacrosse team fell to the Cavaliers by a final score of 12-8. The loss dropped the then #1 Irish to 9-2 on the year with both losses coming at the hands of Virginia. And from an overall standpoint, in the Irish’s last 18 games, they are 15-3 with all three losses coming against UVA.
Following the loss, Notre Dame dropped to #3 in the polls, with UVA coming in at #2 and Duke at #1. The ACC stands alone at the top, and barring something unforeseen this upcoming weekend, these three will be the top three seeds when the tournament selections are announced on Sunday, May 7th. And who will be #1 is anyone’s guess as each of the three has a case with Duke beating UVA twice, UVA beating ND twice and ND beating Duke once. ND and Duke both have two losses (with Duke’s other loss coming against Jacksonville) and UVA has three losses (with their third loss coming to Maryland, whom ND beat). No matter who gets the #1 seed, we are probably looking at the top 8 seeds across UVA, ND, Duke, Penn State, Cornell, Georgetown, Maryland and Johns Hopkins. Let the guessing games begin on how things will all shake out.
Getting back to the Irish vs the Cavaliers from this past weekend, I did want to note that I feel better coming out of this matchup than I did when the Irish lost earlier in the season to Virginia at Notre Dame. That game at Arlotta was a lot more one-sided and the Irish this past Sunday were able to figure out their defensive deficiencies from the earlier battle and turn things around this time. That being said, the offense was still not able to solve Virginia’s long and lanky defense and we can get into that more later in our read, but overall I am feeling more confident in the Irish for the third matchup that will eventually come at some point in the NCAA tournament.
Okay, let’s get into the game and what took place.
It was Senior Day at UVA, and from reports, the Irish were not allowed to have our bagpipers lead the Irish out onto the field for fear of taking away from the ceremony honoring the Cavaliers in their final home game. Pretty brutal if you ask me, and mark that down as another thing the Irish can use for motivation the next time we play each other.
Connor Shellenberger got things going early for Virginia with a goal 23 seconds into the game. That was the only scoring we would see until Brian Tevlin knotted things up for the Irish off a nice feed from Chris Kavanagh with 37 seconds to go in the first quarter. And that was how things ended as we headed into the second frame tied 1-1.
The back and forth trading of goals continued as UVA took a 2-1 advantage before the Irish tied things up on a Jake Taylor goal with a little over seven minutes to go til half. The Cavs then went up 3-2 before Jack Simmons, playing against his former team, squared things up off a nice goal from up top making it 3-3. UVA would make it 4-3 before Taylor got his second of the day (on the man-up) off a slick feed from Jeffrey Ricciardelli with 13 seconds left to make the score 4-4 at the break.
As noted earlier, the Irish’s defense was on point in the first half holding Virginia’s explosive offense to only four goals. We clearly made some adjustments from our first matchup, and although I don’t follow Virginia extremely close, I cannot imagine they have had many games this year where they were held to only four goals in the first 30 minutes.
The back and forth continued, but this time it was the Irish taking the lead on a Ben Ramsey goal to make the score 5-4 Irish. UVA quickly tied things up a little over 31 seconds later before Pat Kavanagh scored a juice goal following a great ride by the Irish to make the score 6-5. Unfortunately that would be the Irish’s last lead of the day as the Cavaliers tied things up at 6 before eventually going up 9-6 as time expired in the third quarter.
The fourth quarter got underway with Colin Hagstrom winning the draw and taking it in and scoring on his own to make it 9-7. After a couple of really good chances where the Irish could have made it 9-8, UVA got a transition goal to make the score 10-7 and they would eventually go up 12-7 before Griffin Westlin scored the Irish’s final goal to make it 12-8. That was where things would finish and the Irish moved to 9-2 on the year and 3-2 in the ACC.
Some Notes and Thoughts
Twice the Irish were caught off guard with quick restarts after the whistle sounded to change possession. The first time came when Chris Conlin had a bad turnover at the midfield line and UVA got a quick restart and an easy goal as the Irish did not get their defense set and in place. The second time came when it was 6-6 and the faceoff had just taken place. The Irish were whistled offsides, but this time I am going to blame the refs as they started the play too early. If you watch the replay, you can clearly see that Jose Boyer’s glove had fallen off fifteen yards from the play and he went back to retrieve his glove, but before he even had a chance to get into position, the ref blew the whistle to start Virginia’s possession. The Irish were caught subbing with Hagstrom coming off the field and UVA had a 6 on 4 opportunity and they buried it to go up 7-6. It was a very key point in the game, and in this situation, the refs should have done a better job of noticing that Boyer’s glove was off and he needed to go retrieve it. Going to put the image here below that shows everything (Boyer up top going for his glove and Hagstrom running off for a sub while UVA has the ball at midfield).
Eric Dobson hit the pipe shortly after the goal that put UVA up 7-6 which would have knotted the score at 7-7 had it gone in. It was another tough game for Dobson against Virginia as he was held to one assist in the first game and zero points in this game. And really Virginia has been the only team all year to shut down Dobson as they have long-poled him heavily in both matchups. Dobson did not really attack in this game and I would imagine that will hopefully change in the next matchup against the Cavs. He is too good to let UVA dictate his production and I expect him (and the Irish coaching staff) to make some changes moving forward where he will look to make more attacking plays (we have all seen that when Dobson beats his man up top, he is equally dangerous either shooting or passing to a teammate).
In the fourth quarter, with the score 9-7, the Irish had three opportunities to get the score to 9-8. The first one was right after Hagstrom got the 7th goal for the Irish as Will Donovan picked up the ground ball off the faceoff and was able to get to the goal. Unfortunately he had a poor angle and he was not able to switch hands (using his longpole) and therefore it was tough to get it past the goalie. The second chance came off a nice feed from Tevlin to Taylor where he had a look in front and just missed it wide. That was a shot that Jake would have liked to have had back as he usually buries that one. The third chance came when UVA made a defensive mistake and did not pick up Pat Kavanagh. He had an uncontested chance from up top, but the goalie made a good save and the Cavaliers scored quickly off transition to make it 10-7.
I think it is fair to say that UVA’s goalie, Matthew Nunes, has played two of his better games of the year against the Irish (14 and 19 saves in the games). And it’s not that Liam Entenmann has played bad in these two games, but Nunes has been a little better. In May and in the tournament, I have my money on Entenmann when we play them next.
We have talked about this in the past, but UVA’s defense is tall and long. And it has caused problems for the Irish as we all know our attack is not the largest unit in the country. We are going to have to figure out some new schemes as they have stymied our offense in both of the matchups. Their long sticks get in the passing lanes and while we have been able to beat them with dodges from our midfielders, they just seem to have a lot of players in the middle of our sets clogging the lanes. Even if we beat our man, there just is not a whole lot open. Coach Wojcik has his work cut out for him, but I think there are some things we can do, especially if we can get Bryce Walker back and healthy and running at full steam.
Xander Dickson continues to be a problem for Notre Dame. He has ten goals across these two games, but it’s not like he is only doing this to the Irish as he has over 50 goals on the season. He is tall and lanky (said this before about UVA players) and does a great job of finding open spaces. Kudos to him, he is a tough matchup, but we did do a lot better job this game around and not letting him beat us with the pick game inside.
I am confident enough in myself to say that I do NOT know exactly what the Irish will change in the situation we play the Cavs again this year. And really that is up to Coach Corrigan, Coach Wojcik, Coach Garnsey and Coach Wellner. But I will say this, I saw enough in this second matchup that shows me that the Irish learned from our first outing and we were able to make the necessary changes to slow down UVA. Now we just need some tweaks on the offensive side to get us some better looks and more goals will come.
The Irish finish off the regular season as they head to Chapel Hill to take on the Tar Heels of the University of North Carolina on Saturday at 12 PM EST. This will be the second time in the three weeks that the Irish will play UNC with the Irish winning the first matchup 16-9 at Arlotta. The Irish will try to solidify a top three seed in the NCAA tournament and will look to finish the year with a mark of 10-2 overall and 4-2 in the ACC.
The first matchup against the Tar Heels got a little bit chippy and I expect we will see a lot of the same this time around. And UNC has a lot to play for as they will be on the outside looking in with a loss to ND, but with a win they still might have a chance to make the tournament.
Looking forward to the Irish getting back in the win column and it would not be a bad feeling to end the Tar Heels’ season.
Then it is time to watch the selection show and get ready for our first round matchup. And stayed tuned to us here, we will have plenty coming up as we will take a look at the UNC game and also how the tournament is laying out for the Irish and our path to our first national championship.
Lastly, don’t forget to check out our good friends at 18stripes for all their thoughts on the Notre Dame lacrosse team as well.