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Wednesday, May 29, 2024
The Observer

Irish men’s lacrosse rises to No. 1 after dominant wins against Ohio State, Michigan

Notre Dame men’s lacrosse enjoyed a successful week of action during spring break that concluded with them earning the right to light up Grace Hall. The Irish were dominant in wire-to-wire victories against No. 10 Ohio State and Michigan by a combined score of 34-11, improving to 6-0 on the season. Those efforts, coupled with the loss of previously top-ranked Virginia, landed the Irish as the unanimous No. 1 team nationally in the Inside Lacrosse and USILA polls. Notre Dame now enters ACC play riding an NCAA-leading 12-game winning streak and playing at an extremely high level that they will hope to maintain through a loaded conference slate. Here’s a look at the wins that propelled them into the nation’s top spot.

Irish use huge third quarter to roll past Buckeyes

Following a thrilling triple-overtime victory on the road against No. 4 Maryland, Notre Dame returned home for another top-ten matchup with Ohio State. The game offered the chance for the Irish to pick up a third straight win against an opponent that defeated them last season. Notre Dame did just that, using an outstanding defensive performance to coast to a 16-3 win in Arlotta Stadium.

As they have been prone to do this season, the Irish jumped out to an early advantage. Goals from junior midfielder Eric Dobson, sophomore attacker Chris Kavanagh and junior attacker Bryce Walker gave Notre Dame a 3-1 lead after the opening quarter. Kavanagh added another score early in the second to stretch the Irish advantage to three, but both defenses clamped down for the remainder of the period. Notre Dame went into the halftime break leading 5-2.

The Irish hit their stride in the second half with a performance that showed why they are seen by many as national title contenders. Dobson started the third quarter with a pair of goals, part of a career-high tying four on the day. Kavanagh completed a hat trick of his own minutes later, and the Irish would continue to find the back of the net throughout the quarter. When all was said and done, they outscored the Buckeyes 7-0 in the period, turning a tight game into a double-digit lead in just 15 minutes of play.

Notre Dame head coach Kevin Corrigan praised the Irish offense’s ability to seek out good shot opportunities and convert them at a high rate.

“Our guys have done a good job being patient, being selective, but at the same time remaining aggressive and taking what the defense is giving,” Corrigan said. “We’re also shooting the ball well. We’re taking advantage of our opportunities, and that makes a big difference.”

The Irish defense would continue to stymie the Buckeyes in the final period as Notre Dame capped off a 16-3 victory. Ohio State scored just once in the second half, and their three total goals were their fewest in a single game since 2015. Irish graduate student defender Chris Fake was named to the USILA Team of the Week, while senior goalie Liam Entenmann earned ACC Defensive Player of the Week honors for the second straight week. Entenmann recorded 13 saves while ceding just three goals in one of the best performances of his career.

“Our defense is playing very well, and certainly, we’re getting great goaltending,” Corrigan said of Entenmann’s play. “When we do make a mistake [defensively], it doesn’t have to cost us every single time because Liam [Entenmann] is back there erasing potential goals.”

Kavanagh matches record as Irish take down Michigan in Ann Arbor

After their brief one-game home stand, the Irish were back on the road for a Saturday afternoon matchup with Michigan. Similar to their previous game, there was little drama as Notre Dame built a decisive 9-2 halftime lead that would eventually turn into a comprehensive 18-8 win, their fourth of the season by a double-digit margin. The Irish continued to fire on all cylinders in every facet of the game, and Corrigan spoke about how one of the team’s strengths is being well-rounded.

“Both games were kind of a function of the fact that we played well in pretty much all aspects,” Corrigan said about the Irish’s play against Ohio State and Michigan. “I think when you do that many things well, you give yourself a chance to separate in games like that. We were able to do that.”

On offense, the headline performance came from senior attacker Pat Kavanagh. The All-American tallied four goals and six assists to tie Notre Dame’s single-game record with 10 points. Kavanagh has now posted 10 points in a game three times in his career, a feat that no other Irish player has ever matched. He also moved up to third on Notre Dame’s career assists leaderboard, passing his brother, former Irish star Matt Kavanagh. Meanwhile, Chris Kavanagh added three goals on the afternoon, extending his streak of finishing with a hat trick in every game thus far in the season.

It was another strong defensive effort from the Irish, who held their opponent to single-digit goals for the fourth time this year. Michigan scored just twice in the first half before finding more success in the second with the game well in hand for Notre Dame. To Corrigan, the Irish’s improvements on defense have stemmed from the unit continuing to develop cohesion and trust.

“We’re really starting to play well together. You’ve got to be able to survive someone making a mistake. You’ve got six guys out there, thousands of opportunities for someone to make a mistake, but as long as the other five guys are playing well together, playing smart team defense and helping out, you can have a guy make a mistake and survive,” Corrigan said. “That’s kind of what we’ve been doing. We’re not perfect, but we’re taking away the easy things and making people work to get to get great shots.”

Up next

The Irish will kick off ACC play Saturday in a highly-anticipated showdown with No. 3 Virginia in South Bend. The Cavaliers had been ranked No. 1 all season before last weekend’s overtime loss at the hands of Maryland, a team that Notre Dame beat in overtime earlier in March. The Cavaliers will be eager to avenge their defeat, while Notre Dame will look to remain unbeaten in a crucial game that could have significant implications on the ACC title race.

The Irish host Virginia on Saturday at Arlotta Stadium. Opening faceoff is set for noon and the game will be available on ESPNU.