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Men’s Lacrosse: Kavanagh powers squad to dramatic victory

Matthew Robison | Monday, March 4, 2013

Sixty minutes were not enough. Neither were 64 or 68. But in the third overtime period, junior midfielder Jim Marlatt came away with a crucial ground ball and managed a pass to freshman attack Matt Kavanagh. Kavanagh made one quick move and buried the game-winning goal for a 10-9 win over No. 9 North Carolina in Arlotta Stadium on Saturday.

“I’ve got to give our guys a ton of credit for the way they keep coming back in those kinds of situations,” Irish coach Kevin Corrigan said. “But I wish we wouldn’t do that. It’s hard on the heart.”

The cold conditions quickly gave way to a heated contest between two of the best teams in the country. With just one minute remaining, No. 2 Notre Dame (3-0) found itself down 9-7, desperate for a goal. The Irish gained possession and drew a 30-second penalty. Just six seconds out of a North Carolina (2-2) timeout, Kavanagh found senior attack Sean Rogers for a goal. Rogers had two goals and an assist in the game.

Junior midfielder Liam O’Connor won the ensuing faceoff, and with 11 seconds left, sophomore attack Conor Doyle found Kavanagh for the equalizer. Doyle finished with one goal and two assists.

“They were playing a zone,” Kavanagh said. “So we drew up a play that was definitely working for us during the fourth quarter. And then we ran that again.”

Kavanagh had another big day with four goals and two assists. He now has eight goals this year in just three games.

Corrigan and his coaching staff recognized a wrinkle in the Irish offense they could exploit against the Tar Heel defense.

“We had some action that they were having trouble covering,” Corrigan said. “We kept tweaking it every time so that we got a little something different every time. We felt like we really got what we wanted on most of them, we just didn’t put them away. Their goalie made some saves and we missed a couple shots. All in all, that’s the best execution we had all day. If we had executed that way all day, for four quarters, we would have had more than nine goals. I guess we did it when we had to.”

Notre Dame survived the first two sudden death periods on two impressive saves by senior goaltender John Kemp.

“He doesn’t give away anything,” Corrigan said. “Teams really have to beat him to get a goal. As good as our defense is, as smart as our defense is, they don’t leave him hanging out to dry a lot. But when they do, he’s big. He made a couple [saves] today that you have no right to expect.”

The win is Notre Dame’s second straight overtime win over a top-10 opponent. It beat No. 8 Penn State on the road Feb. 24 by an identical score of 10-9.

“I feel a little bit like I did last week,” Corrigan said. “I know we can play better. We’ll keep trying to play better. But we’re making plays right now.”

After a tightly contested first half, Notre Dame held a slight one-goal lead.

But everything unraveled for the Irish in the third quarter, as that lead turned into a three-goal deficit. North Carolina capitalized on scoring opportunities, gained possession on critical ground balls and was more physical than Notre Dame.

“That’s a really good team – North Carolina,” Corrigan said. “They’re a particularly good, I thought, ground-ball team. We hadn’t come up with a lot [of ground balls] late in the game when we had some chances on those tough balls.”

But the Irish turned it around when it mattered most.

“Hopefully, we can get back and understand who we are and be a little more effective so we don’t have to go to overtime every week,” Corrigan said. “It says so much about our guys with the way they’ve battled back the last two weeks.”

Notre Dame’s next contest is against Hofstra on Saturday in Arlotta Stadium at noon.

Contact Matthew Robison at mrobison@nd.edu