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Saturday, May 25, 2024
The Observer

Irish men's lacrosse takes on postseason, looks to NCAA quarterfinals

Sophomore attacker Chris Kavanaugh sizes up a defender during Notre Dame's 15-10 loss to Virginia at Arlotta Stadium on March 25, 2023.

Notre Dame men’s lacrosse finished their regular season with an outstanding 10-2 record, and a 4-2 mark in conference play. That effort earned them the No. 3 seed in the NCAA Tournament. They have defeated No. 1 Duke, No. 20 North Carolina and Ohio State at home. They took down No. 4 Georgetown, No. 5 Maryland and No. 8 Michigan away from South Bend. Their only losses were handed to them by No. 2 Virginia.

Led by the superstar duo of the Kavanagh brothers, the Irish have been a deadly team on the field this season. Senior attacker Pat Kavanagh leads the team with 71 points, with sophomore attacker Chris Kavanagh not far behind with 54. Beyond that pair, junior midfielder Eric Dobson has been outstanding with 35 points, and senior attacker Jake Taylor has added 25. Senior midfielder Reilly Gray and graduate student midfielder Quinn McCahon each have 19. Ceding only 9.44 goals per game, senior goalie Liam Entenmann has been excellent with 156 saves and a .569 save percentage. 

The Irish are prolific in every facet of the game — they rank in the top five nationally in both scoring offense and defense. They fly down the field. They have been dubbed the best Notre Dame lacrosse team in the school's history by many on campus. 

You might expect the Irish to be feeling the pressure, rattled by the lofty expectations the Notre Dame community has placed on them, but head coach Kevin Corrigan says that’s not the case. 

“We do not worry about other people’s expectations,” he said. “We define our own expectations for our team. It is irrelevant to what we’re doing.” 

Corrigan and his Irish team have been traversing through this season with an attitude of consistency. The Irish have played one of the toughest schedules in the country, with the majority of their opponents inside the top 20 nationally. They have dealt with the logistical challenges of playing in the South Bend climate and being generally farther away from many of their competitors.

Travel and sporadic training times could have weighed down the team, but given the short nature of the season, there was little margin for error if the Irish were serious about winning a national championship. They were laser focused come gameday. 

Corrigan said, “We played the hardest schedule in the country. We needed to approach it like a football schedule, and focus on the rhythm of each week.” 

Corrigan believes that mentality is his team’s winning formula. When asked about any changes in psyche moving into the NCAA Tournament, he balked at the idea.

“It’s not at all the time to change anything,” he said. “We have to keep doing what we’ve been doing all season, and find that motivation each week.”

Corrigan has absolute faith in this squad, which he considers to be one of the most consistently focused and excellent of his career. The group, in his words, “prioritizes awareness and engagement.”

He credits his seniors and team leaders across every class for maintaining the group’s intensity throughout these long months. Corrigan affectionately referred to the group as “the best internal leadership a coach could ask for.”

“They have been fantastic. They keep everybody connected and focused and are all pulling in the same direction every day,” he said about the team’s leaders. “Playing lacrosse here at Notre Dame is a week by week effort. The leaders have met the challenge and made it happen. All of them are important.”

The Irish have lit up the field, dismantled teams of lacrosse royalty, electrified campus and rallied the Fighting Irish faithful behind them. The anticipation for this team’s playoff run is palpable, and there will likely be more eyes on Irish lacrosse than ever. This is especially true after the team’s masterful performance in their 20-7 first-round victory against Utah. That blowout win advanced the Irish into the NCAA Tournament quarterfinals, which they will play in Annapolis, Maryland, on Sunday, May 21.

One thing that Notre Dame fans can expect is for Corrigan’s team to play like they have all season: with passion, with focus and with beauty. The Irish will not abandon their mantra of consistency as they move into the playoffs, but instead recommit themselves to it. If they can tune out the noise and fully realize the potential they’ve shown all season, it will be incredibly difficult to stop them on their march to the program’s first national championship.