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Men’s Lacrosse: Kavanagh supplies instant impact

Mike Monaco | Thursday, February 21, 2013


Sean Rogers knew from Day One that he was seeing something special. 

The Irish senior attack, now in his fifth season at Notre Dame, recognized in the opening fall practice that freshman attack Matt Kavanagh possessed the potential to make an instant impact.

“From Day One I knew he had the ability to help us” Rogers said. “We scrimmaged under the lights and he had like five or six goals.”

Kavanagh did just that Saturday when the No. 3 Irish mauled No. 4 Duke 13-5 in Durham, N.C. The 5-foot-8, 170-pound freshman scored four goals and added an assist against the Blue Devils in his collegiate debut.

But that didn’t stun Rogers.

“I wasn’t surprised at all,” Rogers said. “He makes plays every day.”

Kavanagh said Notre Dame’s preparation in the days leading up to the season opener put him in position to have a prolific debut. 

“We prepared all week so it was just making plays when they came up,” Kavanagh said. “We knew we were going to make plays so it was just a matter of finishing.”

In his junior and senior seasons of high school, Kavanagh led his team in scoring and was named team MVP as a senior. After graduating from Chaminade High School in New York, the shifty attack signed on for a postgraduate year at Hotchkiss (CT), a move that Kavanagh said was vital.

“I’m older, more mature, got another year of lacrosse under my belt and did things at prep school that I didn’t do in high school,” Kavanagh said. “For example I was more of a crease guy in high school, but at prep school I developed a dodging game and a shooting game so I think that helped out a lot.”

Inside Lacrosse ranked Kavanagh as the top postgraduate recruit in the nation in the class of 2012. After signing with Notre Dame, Kavanagh spent July leading Team USA to a gold medal in the Federation of International Lacrosse Under-19 World Championships. Kavanagh netted two goals and tallied two assists in Team USA’s championship victory over Canada. The attack totaled 20 goals and 11 assists in the seven tournament tilts and was named tournament MVP and the most outstanding attack.

Kavanagh carried that momentum into the preseason, hoping he would get a chance to crack an Irish lineup that returned eight starters from the 2012 team that lost in the Final Four to eventual national champion Loyola (Md.).

“Coming in I didn’t have the attitude of just expecting to play, obviously you have to earn it,” Kavanagh said. “The whole fall getting new to the system, obviously I was new, and I got a lot of help from the older guys, so it was easy to transition.”

Kavanagh was one of just two underclassmen to get the starting nod against Duke. The Irish started four juniors and four seniors, while eight more upperclassmen saw time coming off the bench. 

On a team rife with juniors and seniors, Kavanagh wasn’t checking his name off in the starting lineup. Instead, he used their experience to better himself. 

“Coming in I was told if I worked hard hopefully I could help out as soon as I can,” Kavanagh said. “But like I said, [with] the help of the older guys, it was easier for me to step right in.”

Kavanagh has stepped right into a starring role, unlike anything fellow attack Rogers has seen before from a freshman. Rogers, who has played on four NCAA tournament teams, including a pair of Final Four squads, said he hasn’t seen another freshman come in and make an immediate impact like Kavanagh has.

“There hasn’t been one,” Rogers said. “Maybe [senior goalie] John Kemp. John wasn’t starting but as the backup he took the scrimmages to another level. [Junior attack] Westy Hopkins also did a great job his freshman year stepping in and making a contribution.

“But no one like Kav.”

Contact Mike Monaco at jmonaco@nd.edu