As you all now know, Notre Dame has been crowned the DI College Lacrosse National Champion after defeating Duke 13-9 on Memorial Day this past weekend. Liam Entenmann was named the games most outstanding player making 18 saves (7 of them in the fourth quarter) as the Irish pulled away from the Blue Devils enroute to winning the programs first national title.

Let’s break down how it happened…

Garrett Leadmon would get Duke on the board first, their only lead of the game and it came just 35 seconds into the first quarter.  He went down the left alley and ended up getting underneath his man and put it high high past Entenmann. 1-0 Duke.

Notre Dame would go on a 6 goal run that would span just over 21 minutes. The first was scored by Brian Tevlin on a dish from Chris Kavanagh. He found Tevlin on the crease and after working to get his hands free he put it in the bottom left corner off the pipe, no chance for Will Helm to make that save.

Eric Dobson dodged down the left alley and stuck it on the run with 7:16 left in the first quarter, that broke the tie and it was 2-1 Notre Dame.

A feed intended for Jake Taylor on the crease missed its mark, but made it through the defense to the backside where Chris Kavanagh scooped it up and laced it past Helm stickside high, right past his right ear hole.  3-1 Notre Dame.

Jake Taylor picked up a loose ball on the low crease that came out of the scrum right to Taylor who picked it up and put it stickside high past Helm.  4-1 Notre Dame.

Now this run couldn’t have happened without Notre Dame’s defense playing at a really high level. They forced 2 Duke turnovers over that first quarter in addition to Liam Entenmann stopping 4 of the 5 shots Duke put on cage.

Notre Dame’s 4th goal of the game was set up by a beautiful double-team by Chris Conlon on Duke freshman Charles Balsamo, who turned his back on Conlon who wasted no time, converged and forced the ball to the deck and picked up the groundball.

On that ensuing possession, Notre Dame caught Duke sleeping as they were subbing their midfielders on and Jalen Seymour found Jeffery Ricciardelli just off the crease to the left, he quick-sticked it 5-hole on Helm, 5-1 Notre Dame.

Will Donovan forced Shelling into a bad pass with a subtle slap check on his hands which lead to my favorite goal of the day, Quinn McCahon hitting it on the bad side of midfield, let it rip and stuck it bar down to make the score 6-1 Notre Dame with 5:27 left in the first half.

And that’s how the half ended.  6-1 Notre Dame.  Over the first half, Duke took 24 shots, but only put 9 of them on cage, and Entenmann saved 8 of them. The Irish were winning the faceoff battle taking 5 of 8 from Naso, and they had outplayed the Blue Devils when the ball was on the turf picking up 19 groundballs to Duke’s 10.

The second half would be a bit more interesting.

Jack Gray would score Duke’s first goal since the first minute of the game just over 2 minutes into the first half. Notre Dame broke down in transition as duke was getting ready to sub, no one stopped Gray and he stepped down into an easy goal.  6-2 Notre Dame.

Brennan O’Neill would get Duke back to within a goal with 9:03 remaining in the third off a man up goal dished by Andrew McAdorey. Nothing special about the set, McAdorey tossed it up to O’Neill who was on the right wing and he let a Pennsylvania Piss Missile loose past Entenmann. Perfect placement, off stick side, hugging the pipe, about shoulder level, very tough read for any keeper.  6-5 Notre Dame.

After Notre Dame answered back, Duke scored two more back to back, the second goal of that run, scored by Charles Balsamo tied the score up for only the 3rd time of the game, and that includes 0-0.  Balsamo was actually trying to feed Dyson Williams on the back side and the ball got deflected in by a defender.  Only fitting that at this stage, the goal that tied this game up was kind of trash.

And because of that, Duke’s revelry would be short lived as Notre Dame would manage to score two goals in the final 27 seconds of the third quarter to get back to a 2 goal lead.

The first was scored by Brian Tevlin on a dish from Pat Kavanagh. Dobson dodged down the right alley, drew a slide and hit Kavanagh at GLE who then bumped it to a cutting Tevlin on the crease and he stuck it quick like as he was falling to the turf.  8-7 Notre Dame.

The final goal of the third quarter was scored by Chris Kavanagh with just 0.6 seconds left on the clock.  He was dodging up the right side from X and as he was hitting GLE, put on the breaks, face-dodged his man underneath and dove to the top of the goal mouth putting it high as Helm was guessing low.  A beautiful goal by one of the toughest lax rats in the country.  9-7 Notre Dame.

And that’s all she wrote.  Duke would score one more goal in the game on their way to losing 13-9.

Matt Kavanagh lost a heart breaker to Duke in the national championship game about a decade ago, and his little brothers brought home Notre Dame’s first title in program history.

FIRST, we have to talk about Liam Entenmann in cage.  I want to talk about the Kavanagh’s for their toughness, but the MVP of this game and this entire tournament without question was the Notre Dame keeper.

SECOND, I want to talk about Will Lynch.  He’s had moments this year where he’s been downright awful.  He had games where he only won 15% of his draws against Michigan, 23% against Virginia, 33% against Duke in their first meeting, 20% against North Carolina.  Now they won more of those games than they lost, but what surprised me was that over Lynch’s last 4 games, all NCAA tournament games, he won 79% against Utah. He won 42% in the win over Johns Hopkins, not great, but a win is a win. Memorial Day weekend?  He won 59% over Virginia and Petey Fucking LaSalla and he won 63% against Jake Naso.  Lynch got better as the season wore on, and he saved his best for last in a game where Notre Dame needed those extra possessions to make sure Duke didn’t have a chance to finally get their offense clicking.

THIRD, I want to talk about the Notre Dame defense.  Duke rarely got shots off without someone being on or near their hands.  They generally won 1v1 matchups and even when they didn’t, they either got help, or Entenmann was there to save their asses.  But the Notre Dame defense as a whole played incredible team defense.  They were physical, they got after loose balls, they supported each other, and they trusted their pimp goaltender.

FOURTH, I want to talk about the supporting cast on offense for Notre Dame. Everyone talks about the Kavanagh’s, but in this game, with both Kav’s beaten up, it was the supporting guys that helped win Notre Dame their first title.  Guys like Jack Simmons, Eric Dobson, Quinn McCahon, Jeffery Ricciardelli, Brian Tevlin and the like.  A lot of the credit needs to go to them on a day where Pat Kavanagh was playing with a makeshift rubber hammy and his brother Chris was playing with a shiner, 5 stitches in his eye and had gotten absolutely trashed by Bower early in the game.  If it was the NFL, no chance he comes back out onto the field.

FIFTH, I want to talk about the Kavanagh’s because they set the tone for how this team has played all season.  They are the kindling that stoked this fire.  They play with a level of toughness that is unmatched by any other duo on the country.  Their love of the game is unquestioned.  Their talent is similar.  They have fun, they play hard for 60 minutes, they do everything well and max out their effort at all times and that is what makes this team tick.

All in all, it was an incredible final after we had perhaps the best semifinal games I can recall seeing back to back on Saturday.

And that does it for season 4, but IT’S NOT GOODBYE.  I’ll be back live streaming this Saturday at 10am to recap the entire season, hand out my end of season awards and talk some PLL LACROSSE which I will cover through the summer.

Listen to the audio version…

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