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Tuesday, March 5, 2024
The Observer

After win over Duke, Notre Dame trumps Virginia to claim ACC title

No. 8 Notre Dame traveled to Charlottesville, Virginia, this weekend in hopes to increase its odds of gaining a berth in the upcoming NCAA tournament.

It ended up with a 14-11 win over then-No. 2 Duke in the semifinals Friday and a dominant 17-7 victory against No. 10 Virginia in the championship game Sunday to win its second ACC championship in program history.

Against the Blue Devils (12-3, 3-1 ACC) on Friday, the No. 3-seed Irish (8-5, 1-3) set the tone early with two goals by junior attack Ryder Garnsey within the first four minutes of play to give Notre Dame a 2-0 lead. After Duke cut the lead to one, sophomore midfielder Bryan Costabile scored a natural hat trick to put Notre Dame up 5-1 with 9:18 left in the second quarter. Duke would score three of the next four goals to cut Notre Dame’s lead to 6-4 heading into halftime.

Irish junior attack Ryder Garnsey pushes past a defender during Notre Dame's 8-2 loss to Duke on April 7 at Arlotta Stadium.
Irish junior attack Ryder Garnsey pushes past a defender during Notre Dame's 8-2 loss to Duke on April 7 at Arlotta Stadium.

After junior midfielder Brendan Gleason scored under a minute into the third quarter, the Blue Devils responded with three-straight goals to tie the score 7-7 with 5:42 left in the third quarter. With just one second left in the quarter, Gleason fired a shot into the back of Duke’s net to give Notre Dame the lead 8-7.

After another goal by Garnsey, Duke scored three goals in the span of 2:13 to take a 10-9 lead with 9:22 remaining in regulation. With 7:44 on the clock, senior attack Mikey Wynne scored the equalizing goal. Garnsey then scored two goals within two minutes, followed by a goal from sophomore midfielder Brian Willetts on the man-advantage to give Notre Dame a 13-10 lead with 1:52 left in regulation.

Duke was able to cut the lead to two, but Gleason buried the game with his 15th goal of the season with just 27 seconds left in the contest.

Garnsey finished with five goals and one assist on the afternoon, while Costabile recorded three goals and an assist.

Against the Cavaliers (11-5, 1-3) in the championship game Sunday, the Irish gave up the first goal of the game, but responded with three goals of their own. After Virginia scored to narrow the deficit to one goal, Notre Dame scored five of the six goals registered in the second quarter to take an 8-3 lead into halftime. Goals by Wynne, Costabile and Garnsey extended Notre Dame’s lead to 11-3 with 9:39 left in the third quarter. The Irish cruised the rest of the way, outscoring Virginia 6-4 over the remainder of the game.

Garnsey finished with three goals and two assists in the championship game. Costabile recorded three goals and an assist and was named the ACC tournament MVP.

Notre Dame head coach Kevin Corrigan said he is proud of the way his team battled through adversity to get to this point.

“The biggest thing is it’s so gratifying to see our guys work hard all year, as we kind of battled through some things,” Corrigan said. “It was great to see them play so well and so confidently and so aggressively over the course of the weekend. It put us in a position of being able to battle two of what I think are the better teams in the country.”

The win in the championship game and the location of the tournament added significance for Corrigan, who played his collegiate lacrosse at Virginia and whose father used to coach the Cavaliers.

Despite that, Corrigan said this weekend was about his team.

“I don’t think much about that,” Corrigan said. “It was nice because my parents could be there and a lot of my family who live in the area could be there, so that was nice for me to be able to double down and see all of them. But this is about these players on our team and about their journey, not about mine.”

Corrigan said his team knew what they had to do in order to increase its odds of an NCAA tournament berth.

“I think they understood the importance of the games,” Corrigan said. “I think they just said, ‘You know what, we need to go after it. We can’t be uncertain. We have to be aggressive and trust each other and trust ourselves.’ And I think that’s what they did, and as they did that, their confidence grew and then you get the best of everybody.”

Notre Dame still has one regular-season game remaining. This Saturday, it will host Army at 1 p.m. at Arlotta Stadium.

Corrigan said his team knows they now have to switch its  focus to the Black Knights (5-7, 2-6 Patriot).

“We play what I think is the hardest schedule in the country, and I hope at this point of the year our guys know you can’t look forwards and you can’t look backwards,” Corrigan said. “We will get back to school and our guys will get back to work in practice this week and focus on that next game. They know first of all we need to keep winning to put ourselves in the best position to make sure we are in the tournament and make sure we are ready to play our best lacrosse of the tournament. We know we don’t want to take any steps back right now. This is an Army team that beat us at the end of last year, so we understand we have to go out and beat them.”