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Wednesday, May 29, 2024
The Observer

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Irish move on to ACC Tournament championship with resounding victory over Virginia

Irish dominate Virginia in rematch, winning 18-9 in ACC semifinals

After the Notre Dame men’s lacrosse team concluded its regular season with a hard-fought victory over No. 5-ranked Virginia, they played the Cavaliers again in the ACC Tournament semifinal. The second time around was not as hard-fought. It was utter dominance from the Irish from start to finish in undoubtedly their most impressive win of the season, one that sent a message to the rest of the nation, and especially to the winner of the Duke-Syracuse game on the other side of the tournament bracket. 

Notre Dame set the tone of its 18-9 win from the very beginning, starting the game on a 4-0 scoring run. After junior midfielder Will Angrick got the scoring started for the Irish, Devon McLane continued to torment Virginia, scoring his first of four goals on the day. The graduate midfielder now has a combined seven goals in two games against the Cavaliers. Graduate student attacker and leading Irish goal-scorer Jake Taylor took advantage of a man-up opportunity before junior faceoff man Will Lynch went coast-to-coast to score after winning the ensuing draw. Payton Cormier momentarily weathered the storm before freshman midfielder Jordan Faison and sophomore long-stick midfielder Will Donovan ripped off two more unanswered goals before the end of the quarter.

In the second quarter, each of Virginia’s only two goals were followed by two from the Irish. Junior attacker Chris Kavanagh and junior midfielder Jalen Seymour got on the board, later followed by seconds for McLane and Angrick. They took Notre Dame into the half up 10-3, managing one goal short of its output for the entire game last week in only the first half. On the other end, the Irish defense smothered the Cavaliers, with ACC Defensive Player and Goalie of the Year Liam Entenmann making seven saves. The graduate student spearheaded another brilliant defensive performance. He held one of the country’s elite offenses to only nine goals for the second game in a row while making a ridiculous 18 saves.

After Cormier struck again to open up the second half, the Irish sucked out any life that remained in Virginia. The Irish rattled off four goals in a row starting with graduate student attacker Pat Kavanagh’s first. Digging into the second unit, senior attacker Bryce Walker, graduate student midfielder Nick Harris and sophomore midfielder Max Busenkell all tallied goals on the run. As the Irish ended the third quarter with a commanding 14-4 lead, the entire final period was throw-away time. The Cavaliers managed their best offensive quarter, scoring five goals as they battled for a more respectable score. Graduate student defenseman Chris Conlin scored his first goal of the season, and senior midfielder Eric Dobson grabbed his first of the game. McLane would get his hat trick, scoring twice in the final 11 minutes to finish off the rout.

The implications of the game were massive for both sides. While Virginia’s RPI resume remains strong, their spot in the top eight heading into the tournament is questionable. As for Virginia’s opponents, Notre Dame punches its ticket to the ACC Championship game and all but cements a one-seed in the NCAA Tournament. This is especially significant because 19 of the last 20 one-seeds have made championship weekend and none have ever lost in the first round.

While it appears to be a minor difference on paper, only 10 out of 20 two-seeds have made championship weekend, and five have suffered first-round losses. With the win, the Irish put themselves in the best possible position to repeat as champions. In the meantime, they will set their sights on No. 3 seed Duke on the other side of the bracket. The championship will be broadcast by the ACC Network Sunday at noon.