No. 11 Irish bounce back with win over Tar Heels
Observer Sports Staff | Wednesday, April 24, 2019
After a hard-fought home loss last weekend against No. 9 Cornell, No. 11 Notre Dame responded with a 12-10 win over North Carolina at Arlotta Stadium on Saturday. Senior attack Brendan Gleason propelled the Fighting Irish (7-5, 2-2 ACC) on senior day, scoring a career-high five goals to help the team secure a fourth-place regular season finish in the ACC. The final home game of the season was a special one for Gleason, who was selected by his teammates to wear No. 40 in honor of former Irish lacrosse captain Mike Sennett. The 1991 Notre Dame graduate passed away suddenly in 2007, and each year, Irish players vote on who will wear his jersey.
Both defenses turned in strong first-half performances, and goal scoring opportunities were difficult to come by for both the Irish and the Tar Heels (7-6, 1-3 ACC). Gleason opened the scoring one and a half minutes into the game, as he sprinted from behind the cage and whipped a shot over the left shoulder of North Carolina freshman goaltender Caton Johnson to give the Irish a 1-0 lead. Gleason nearly added a second goal to his tally just two minutes later, but his behind the back shot attempt was steered away by Johnson. North Carolina soon pulled even, as a shot from the left wing by freshman attackman Nicky Solomon bounced off the stick of Notre Dame junior goaltender John Zullo and across the goal line. Gleason however, responded just two minutes later, firing a bouncer through the legs of Johnson to put the Irish back in front. North Carolina senior attackman Timmy Kelly then responded with back-to-back goals to close out the period, muscling his way towards the crease and forcing a shot past Zullo on both occasions.
The Tar Heels continued their scoring run in the second. Five minutes into the period, junior midfielder Tanner Cook found a pocket of open space in the middle of the field. The junior cut to his left and then fired a rocket back to his right to beat Zullo and give Carolina a 4-2 advantage. Notre Dame, however, would finish the period with back-to-back goals of its own. With just one minute to play in the half, freshman attackman Griffin Westlin lobbed a pass to junior midfielder Bryan Costabile, who ripped a shot into the cage to cut the Carolina lead in half. With the clock winding down, junior attackman Brian Willets found a cutting Connor Morin. The sophomore midfielder spun to his left to shake his defender and then found the net to beat the clock and tie the game at four.
The Notre Dame offense found its rhythm in the second half, scoring the first three goals of the third period to take its largest lead of the game. Sophomore attackman Wheaton Jackoboice, Gleason and Willetts all scored within the first six minutes of the quarter. After North Carolina junior midfielder Justin Anderson fired a rocket into the top left corner of the cage, Willets responded with his second goal of the game to make the score 8-5. With just over two minutes to go in the third, junior midfielder William Perry found the twine for the Tar Heels to cut the Notre Dame lead to two, setting up a high-scoring fourth quarter.
At the start of the final period, Tanner Cook scored his second goal of the game to bring the Tar Heels within one. Costabile and Gleason then buried back-to-back goals to put the Irish up three once again. North Carolina, however, continued to battle. Consecutive goals by Perry and Anderson again brought the Tar Heels within one. However, with four minutes left in the game, freshman midfielder Quinn McCahon drove past his defender and scored to put the Irish up 11-9. After Tar Heels senior attackman Timmy Kelly scored two minutes later to make it 11-10, Gleason scored his fifth and final goal of the afternoon, a sidearm laser past Johnson to close out the Irish victory.
With the win, Notre Dame earned a first-round bye in this weekend’s ACC tournament and will face No. 3-ranked Duke in the semifinals. The Irish will be looking to best the Blue Devils after a 14-8 defeat from earlier in the season.