The 2023 regular season revenge tour finished for the Notre Dame Men’s Lacrosse team with a convincing 18-9 win against the North Carolina Tar Heels. It was the second win of the year against UNC, both times with the Irish easily putting away the Heels, but this time officially ending the season for Carolina. It was a fitting finish to the regular season for the Irish who now await their seeding in the upcoming NCAA lacrosse tournament.
The 2023 Notre Dame Fighting Irish did just about everything they set out to accomplish this year in the regular season. Right off the bat we avenged three key losses from last year in Georgetown, Maryland and Ohio State. We scored and defended at elite levels across the entire season. We played complete team lacrosse at an extremely high level throughout the spring, and as was noted in the broadcast of today’s game, the Irish handed 9 of the 10 teams we beat this year their worst loss of the season. We saw the emergence of key players who were either not on the team last year or who have stepped up into more prominent roles this year. We are littered with All-American level play at every level of our team, and our consistency has been on hand just about each and every week. The only thing we didn’t do was beat Virginia, but we can talk about that if and when the next matchup with the Cavaliers comes.
The NCAA lacrosse tournament selection show is on Sunday night and the Irish will find out if we are are the #1, #2 or #3 seed in this year’s tournament. A case can be made for Duke, Virginia and Notre Dame at any of the three positions and it will be a secret until the selections are announced. If I had to guess, and knowing how much the committee is not a fan of the Irish (ie see last year and the ridiculous seeding we received in 2021), I think we will be #3 with Virginia #2 and Duke #1. No matter what, the Irish will be hosting a first round game at Arlotta, more than likely on Saturday, May 13th.
There will be plenty to talk about once the seedings come out, but until then, let’s look at this last victory and how the Irish finished the regular season on a high note.
The Irish got out to a quick start as we took a 4-0 lead a little over seven minutes into the game. UNC was whistled for a penalty on the opening face-off and the Irish made them pay with Jeffery Ricciardelli scoring on the man-up to get ND on the board. Subsequent Irish goals came from Eric Dobson, Jake Taylor and Brian Tevlin. The game looked like it could get out of hand, but then UNC got three consecutive goals to get the score to 4-3. Dobson stopped the bleeding and made it 5-3 before Chris Kavanagh got his first of the day to make the score 6-3 at the end of the first quarter. To note, and he played lights out all day, but Liam Entenmann made a key save with the Irish up 5-3. It was another key moment where the All-American came up huge for the Irish.
This was the quarter where Notre Dame put the game away as we scored four goals while not allowing any goals for UNC. Chris Kavanagh got the scoring started for the Irish to get the score to 7-3. Then on the ensuing faceoff, Ross Burgmaster got his first career goal as he got a pass from Will Lynch and scored on the fast break. We then saw another Ricciardelli man-up goal before Chris Kavanagh finished the scoring with a tally to make it 10-3 Irish at the break.
UNC got the first goal of the second half to make the score 10-4, but on the ensuing face-off, Will Lynch made a great play and dislodged the ball from the UNC player, picked up the ground ball and took it in for his first goal of the season. Great play by Lynch and it stopped any sort of momentum the Tar Heels were trying to find. We then saw two goals from Chris Kavanagh making the score 13-4 Irish and at this point the game was out of hand. UNC got one back before Pat Kavanagh scored his first of the day making the score 14-5, then UNC got the last goal of the quarter to make it 14-6 as we headed into the final fifteen minutes.
Jake Taylor got the scoring going for the Irish as he netted the first two goals of the fourth to complete his hat trick and put the Irish ahead 16-6. UNC scored thereafter before Dobson and Ben Ramsey scored the final two goals for the Irish to make it 18-7. The Tar Heels finished off the scoring for the day with the final two tallies to make the final score 18-9 Irish. Notre Dame finishes the regular season with an overall record of 10-2 and 4-2 in the ACC.
Some Notes and Thoughts
Not sure how many more superlatives we have for the Kavanagh brothers, but the skill, talent, and relentlessness that these two bring to the table was on full display on Saturday afternoon. Pat finished with seven points (1 G, 6A) and Chris finished with six points (5G, 1A). This game was the perfect showcase of Pat’s passing abilities and Chris’ playmaking and finishing abilities. And as was mentioned on the broadcast, Chris scored from so many different spots on the field and he changed the angle of his release on so many of his shots. He is just so hard to defend and that was completely apparent today.
We already talked about the great save by Entenmann with the Irish up 5-3, but he also made a bunch of huge saves on UNC after they got their fourth goal. I think this was definitely one of his better games of the season as he was seeing the ball really well and he made key saves throughout the contest. It has been a 1st Team All-American level season by Liam and I hope he gets recognized for it.
Speaking of recognition, for those who have been reading my articles, I have been loudly stating that I think Ben Ramsey is one of the most improved lacrosse players in the entire country. And it showed again today as he was all over the field causing turnovers, picking up ground balls, defending UNC’s top lines and scoring another goal. The Irish have one of the best defenses in the country, he is our top SSDM and he deserves All-American recognition for the job he has done this year.
Great to see Eric Dobson rebound from last week’s game against UVA. He was attacking from up top, whether he was long-poled or not, and he was able to get another hat trick against the Heels. As we said last week, the only team that has slowed him down this whole season has been Virginia.
No Bryce Walker again today, but we did see #5 warming up in a tweet from the ND Lacrosse twitter handle prior to the game. That is good news, hopefully he is just about ready to go and he will be back next week for the tournament. And if not in the first round game, hopefully he will be good to go after that as he is an important cog in our top midfield lines. That being said, I liked what we saw from Jalen Seymour today as continued to show that he has good dodging abilities from up top and the the speed to get by his defender.
Fulton Bayman got a lot of run today, and at first when I saw him out there I just assumed we were giving someone a quick rest. But as the game continued, we saw a lot more of him as we subbed out across Jake Taylor and the Kavanagh brothers. It’s always good to give different looks and he played well out there this afternoon. He was close on a couple of goals and he was sure-handed with his stick. Will be interesting to see if this was a one game thing or if this continues in the tournament, but either way, something else on tape that our opponents need to account for moving forward.
Our man-up unit was 2-3 on the day with Jeffery Ricciardelli getting both goals for the Irish. I really do like the set up we have with this unit right now as we have basically a 2-2-2 look with Pat Kavanagh and Eric Dobson up top, Ricciardelli and Chris Kavanagh in the middle and Griffin Westlin and Jake Taylor at the bottom. We have so many options as we always have Dobson with the chance to hammer it from outside. We have Ricciardelli in the middle and he usually gets his feed from Pat Kavanagh, and if the defense collapses on him, he hits Chris Kavanagh who is then open for an outside shot. If they don’t collapse, he can use his quick hands to get off a sidearm shot (which has proven tough to defend). And all of this doesn’t account for skip passes that can be made to Taylor and Westlin who are good in-close finishers. It’s an elite unit right now and just really hard to defend, as evidenced by the Irish finishing second in the country in man-up percentage.
Awesome to see Will Lynch score his first goal of the season today. It was only a matter of time before it came this year and he played an extremely good all around game on Saturday. Today was definitely the best Lynch has looked since the Syracuse matchup. We also saw good work from Colin Hagstrom at the dot and all of this gives the Irish coaches confidence that they have two face-off options as we get May underway next weekend.
Notre Dame’s transition defense was outstanding today. They really did an excellent job of preventing UNC from capitalizing in unsettled situations, fast breaks and restarts. As we talked about how this was something the Irish struggled a little bit with last week against Virginia, it was great to see the Irish rebound pretty emphatically today in this aspect of the game. To note, I think we also saw this afternoon the stark contrast in what happens when you play a team with developed and experienced talent in UVA and when you play a team with the young talent that UNC has. You cannot make any mistakes in the midfield against UVA as they will make you pay so quickly. UNC just was not able to do that and while I think the Irish helped dictate that, there is still a massive difference in UNC and UVA.
Love what the Irish are doing on faceoffs with two long poles on the wings. Whether Jose Boyer, Will Donovan or Ross Burgmaster, it is working and we are finding success with longer poles crashing the faceoff dot. It also helps when you have players like Brian Tevlin and Quinn McCahon who you can put on the defensive end for the faceoff; you know they know their positioning and what they should be doing if the other team gains possession.
Alex Zepf came in to play the last little over five minutes of the game and I thought he played really well. He made three really good saves while not giving up a goal. It was a nice finish to the game that he brought.
Ever since early May of 2022, the 2023 season for the Irish has been building to this time. The 2023 NCAA tournament seedings will be announced tomorrow and as we have discussed earlier, the Irish will find themselves either at #1, #2 or #3. I don’t envy the selection committee, but as said earlier, I expect to see the Irish ranked #3 and from there we will see how the rest of the bracket looks. It is a one game season from here on out, and while we can all look at the brackets and see how the path lays out for the Irish to be playing on Memorial Day, what’s important is the next game....and nothing else.
Be on the lookout for our next article which looks at the overall bracket, and hoping as well to do a podcast this week where we look at how the season finished and the Irish’s opening round matchup.
As always, be sure to check out our friends at 18stripes for all their coverage and thoughts on the Irish lacrosse team as well.