Irish capture ACC crown
Greg Hadley | Monday, April 28, 2014
No. 9 Notre Dame took things to the very brink not once, but twice, this weekend at the ACC championships and came out on the other side with the conference title after a thrilling, 15-14 win over No. 4 Syracuse on Sunday at PPL Park in Chester, Pa.
“It’s all about where you are at this moment,” Irish coach Kevin Corrigan said. “And at this moment we should have a lot of confidence. We came into the end of the year needing to play our best and did play our best.”With the win, the Irish secure an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament, which begins May 10 in Baltimore.
Before the Irish (8-5, 2-3 ACC) even faced the Orange (10-4, 2-3), they went down to the wire in the semifinals, defeating No. 7 Maryland, 6-5, on a last-second goal by sophomore attackman Matt Kavanagh, less than a week after losing to the Terrapins (10-3, 4-1). The Irish also lost to Syracuse on March 29, 11-10, after a final rally came up short.
This time, the Irish offense was in full swing, scoring above its season average (11.08) and going up, 3-1, early in the first quarter. After conceding the lead and falling behind in a fast-paced game that featured more than 30 shots from both teams, the Irish rallied to enter the half in a 7-7 tie.
In a decisive third quarter, Notre Dame scored six unanswered goals while holding the Orange scoreless for almost 14 minutes. In the final period, the Irish defense surrendered the final four goals but held on for the win.
“At times, we were terrific [on defense],” Corrigan said. “I know we went [about 14 minutes] without giving up a goal and that allowed us to get out in front of them and get some separation. … But I would say it was a mixed bag defensively. Early on, they got to us with the things we thought they shouldn’t be able to get, and then we made an adjustment, and they made an adjustment, so it was a little bit of back-and-forth there.”
In Notre Dame’s regular-season game against the Orange, Kavanagh failed to record a point, but he scored four goals Sunday and chipped in two assists to go with his game-winning score against Maryland. He was named tournament MVP.
“Here’s the great thing about Matt: He wasn’t able to practice all week,” Corrigan said. “He was a little banged up from the previous game, so for him to come out and to play as hard and as tough and as well as he did, it really says a lot about what a great competitor he is.”
Kavanagh was joined on the all-tournament team by junior attackman Conor Doyle, senior defenseman Stephen O’Hara and junior goalkeeper Conor Kelly. Kelly made 21 saves combined during the weekend, including a season-high 12 against Maryland. In the final seconds against Syracuse, Kelly made a highlight-reel stop on a last-ditch shot by junior attackman Kevin Rice to preserve the win. Kelly had started just one regular season game for the Irish since March 1.
“He did a great job of continuing to work hard when he wasn’t in goal and preparing himself for the opportunity to come back in and then earning that opportunity, through what he did in practice every day,” Corrigan said. “I couldn’t be more proud of him and the way he’s handled this whole year. It hasn’t been an easy year for him, but it’s great to see him peaking and playing his best lacrosse right now.”
The Irish play one final regular-season game at home against No. 14 Army on May 3 at noon before they advance to the NCAA tournament for the ninth consecutive year.