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Saturday, May 25, 2024
The Observer

20240420, Arlottta Stadium, Meghan Lange, Men's Lacrosse, Senior Day, University of North Carolina-28.jpg

Notre Dame men's lacrosse to close regular season with Virginia rematch

Irish look to add to winning streak with game against Cavaliers

Notre Dame men’s lacrosse will wrap up their regular season on Saturday with a matchup with a familiar foe.

Despite all the success Irish men’s lacrosse has accumulated over the last few seasons, no program has had their number quite like the Virginia Cavaliers. In the past 766 days, Notre Dame men’s lacrosse has lost just three regular season games. The Cavaliers account for two of those defeats.

Virginia will also be out for revenge given the result of the last meeting between the two squads, which came in the semi-finals of last season’s NCAA tournament. A wild match saw the Irish fall behind late before finding a last-ditch equalizer and an eventual walk-off winner in overtime. Notre Dame would go on to defeat Duke and capture the program’s first national title.

The contest between the two squads shouldn’t lack for fireworks this year either. Notre Dame has defended their title in impressive fashion this year, currently boasting a 9-1 record and a national No. 1 ranking. The Irish did lose early on in the year to Georgetown, but have since responded with seven consecutive victories — including a triumph over Duke, the team ranked No. 2 in both Inside Lacrosse and USILA’s respective polls.

The Cavaliers have also enjoyed a strong campaign, but have dealt with a recent slide in form. The ’Hoos started the year 10-1, but will enter Saturday’s matchup on a two-game losing streak, suffering road defeats to Duke and Syracuse each of the last two weekends. Barring an upset win by North Carolina over Duke, the game on Saturday will likely be the first in a pair of games between Notre Dame and Virginia, with the two squads currently on pace to square off in the semi-final round of the ACC tournament.

On the field, the Cavalier attack is paced by the graduate student duo of Payton Cormier and Connor Shellenberger. The pairing have amassed 125 combined points this season, with Cormier doing the majority of his damage as a threat in front of net (48 goals) and Shellenberger as a creator (41 assists). Cormier leads the nation in goals on a per-game basis, currently averaging 3.69 tallies a contest. Virginia has also seen freshman McCabe Millon provide support alongside his more experienced attackmates, with the rookie currently boasting 52 points on the year.

A potent Irish midfield will face a stern challenge from a Cavalier squad that’s done a great job of making opposing teams uncomfortable in transition this spring. Virginia ranks second in the nation in turnovers caused, and also has the second-best clearing percentage nationally. The Cavaliers lead the country in ground balls caused on a per-game basis.

With both teams gearing up for postseason play, Saturday should mark a major chance for both teams to make a statement. The road to a national title runs through South Bend at present — not literally, with the NCAA semifinals and final being held in Philadelphia once again this year — and a win over Virginia would be further evidence that Notre Dame is the class of both the ACC and country. For the Cavaliers, a win would end an ill-timed stretch of poor results and provide proof of concept as their chase for their first national title since 2021 looms.