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Saturday, May 25, 2024
The Observer

Notre Dame men’s lacrosse advances to sixth Final Four in program history

The Irish celebrate a goal during their 15-10 loss to Virginia at Arlotta Stadium on March 25.
The Irish celebrate a goal during their 15-10 loss to Virginia at Arlotta Stadium on March 25.

No. 3 Notre Dame men’s lacrosse beat No. 6 Johns Hopkins 12-9 on Sunday afternoon to reach its first Final Four since 2015. The Irish advance to the semifinals next weekend in Philadelphia where they will face No. 2 Virginia, which has handed Notre Dame both of its losses on the year.

The Irish quickly fell behind after a Johns Hopkins goal just over three minutes in, but that proved to be the last Johns Hopkins lead of the game. The Blue Jays came in fresh off a 22-goal outburst against Bryant but were stymied by the Irish in Annapolis, Maryland, on Sunday.

The first quarter began slowly, as both sides struggled to get into the middle of the field and make life difficult for the two goalies. After just two goals were scored in the first half of the opening quarter, five found the back of the net in the final 7:30.

The Irish came out aggressively, forcing Johns Hopkins into some early turnovers. Neither side was able to get in a flow, trading goals throughout the frame. A last-minute strike from sophomore midfielder Jalen Seymour gave the Irish a 4-3 lead heading into the second.

Johns Hopkins evened the tally early in the second quarter, but the Irish almost immediately reclaimed control. Not only did the Irish continue to force turnovers, but they also forced a shot clock advantage and a loose ball foul that led to a go-ahead goal by sophomore attacker Chris Kavanagh. The Irish spent the quarter almost exclusively on the attack, not allowing a shot for over 10 straight minutes at one point. Chris Kavanagh, junior midfielder Eric Dobson and graduate student midfielder Jack Simmons all notched goals to send the Irish to the locker room up 7-4.

The Irish offense struggled to get going in the third, failing to register a shot on goal for the first half of the quarter. By that point, Johns Hopkins had already cut the lead to one following goals by Russell Melendez and Matt Collison. Fortunately for the Irish, they scored on their first shot on goal in the quarter, courtesy of a laser from senior attack Jake Taylor. That goal reset the Irish, who would score twice more before the quarter’s end, including another goal from Taylor to extend their lead to a game-high four goals.

Notre Dame looked to be in the driver’s seat when an early fourth quarter strike by Seymour put them up five. But the Blue Jays proved their mettle with a fervent late comeback attempt. Two goals in a 55-second span from Matt Collison and Garrett Degnon certainly made the Irish sweat. Despite that burst and a few anxious moments as senior attacker Pat Kavanagh was checked out by the medical staff on the sideline, the Irish stayed in control. Senior goaltender Liam Entenmann made some of the biggest of his 10 saves down the stretch. The Blue Jays threatened the Irish with a couple of dangerous shots that struck the post. After a huge turnover forced by graduate student defenseman Chris Conlin, Chris Kavanagh put the game out of reach with his third goal of the day.

The Blue Jays pushed the Irish down the stretch, but Notre Dame proved to have too much firepower. The Irish outshot their opponent 43-31 and drew three penalties while taking just one. Though the official turnover count favored Johns Hopkins 14-12, Notre Dame forced enough impactful turnovers at crucial moments. The Blue Jays weren’t able to consistently generate offense against the aggressive Irish defense. Notre Dame played like it knew it was the better team, and the result followed.

The win sends the Irish to the championship weekend for the sixth time in program history. A third chance at Virginia awaits them on Saturday. The confidence and aggressiveness should serve the Irish well, although the Cavaliers present a much tougher challenge. But for Notre Dame’s regular season dominance to feel not wasted, they needed a deep tournament run. Making it to Philadelphia checks that box. But the Irish are still hungry for more.