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Men’s Lacrosse

Second Kavanagh to grace Irish lacrosse team makes a name for himself

| Monday, March 29, 2021

As a middle schooler, Pat Kavanagh’s weekends were spent traveling from Long Island, New York to South Bend, Indiana to watch older brother Matt play lacrosse for Notre Dame.

“In seventh and eighth grade I was able to leave class early on Fridays from St. Agnes Cathedral School. Me and my little brother [Chris] would get picked up by our parents on Fridays, leave class, drive or fly over to South Bend and get to all of [Matt’s] games. We’d be there for Friday, Saturday, Sunday and get back on Monday,” Kavanagh recounts.

Back in 2013, Matt was just beginning to rewrite the record books in South Bend; his 32 goals that year were the most ever by an Irish freshman. The next season in 2014, Notre Dame made it all the way to the NCAA championship game for the second time thanks in large part to Matt’s 42 goals and 33 assists. He became the first Notre Dame player ever to score 30 goals and add 30 assists in a single season and established the single-season records for points (75) and assists (33) at the time. By the time Matt graduated from Notre Dame in 2016, he had solidified himself as one of the best players to ever suit up in blue and gold.

“Ever since then it’s been my goal to play here.”

Now, in 2021, Pat Kavanagh continues to write his own Notre Dame lacrosse story. In the season-opening 19-7 win over Robert Morris, Kavanagh posted one of the best individual performances in Notre Dame men’s lacrosse history, racking up seven assists and nine points, both of which tied program records. Kavanagh followed up that performance by dishing out six more assists in Notre Dame’s 12-6 victory against Bellarmine, five assists in a 10-3 win over Marquette and four goals and an assist in a big 19-5 win over Cleveland State. In Notre Dame’s 12-11 loss to No. 9 Virginia this weekend, Kavanagh added two more assists. Five games into his sophomore season, and Kavanagh already leads the nation in assists per game (4.20) and his team in points (28).

Pat and Matt aren’t the only athletes in the Kavanagh clan, let alone lacrosse stars. In fact, all eight immediate family members played a sport in college. Mr. Kavanagh played club hockey at Iona College before they had a D1 team, while Mrs. Kavanagh played volleyball at Molloy College. Brendan played lacrosse at Hofstra and currently plays professionally as a member of the Chrome Lacrosse Club in the Premier Lacrosse League. Kevin played hockey at Stony Brook, Colleen played soccer at Manhattan College and the youngest Chris is a senior in high school who just recently committed to play lacrosse at Notre Dame. Unsurprisingly, Pat credits his siblings with molding him into the type of player he is today.

Ryan Vigilante | The Observer
Irish sophomore attack Pat Kavanagh passes the ball during Notre Dame’s 11-12 loss to Virginia on Mar. 27.

“I’ve had four great older siblings to look up to,Kavanagh said “And three older brothers, so whenever we’d mess around in the backyard or the basement it would get pretty intense and competitive. My oldest brothers wouldn’t go lightly on me and my little brother Chris.”

“If we were playing, everything was fair game; throwing elbows, getting physical, so it kind of shaped me into the player and person I am today. Me and my little brother play with an edge and toughness and chip on our shoulder so I’m definitely thankful for them.”

If having two brothers make it to play professional lacrosse and a family filled with college athletes wasn’t enough to ensure Pat’s collegiate lacrosse career, growing up on Long Island was.

“I’d definitely say Long Island is the biggest hotbed of lacrosse. When I think of lacrosse on Long Island, I think of crazy competitive schools and rec leagues. Naturally, most of the young guys pick up lacrosse at a pretty young age,” Kavanagh said. Pat himself began playing sometime around five or six years old.

Prior to arriving at Notre Dame, Kavanagh led Long Island lacrosse powerhouse Chaminade High School to back-to-back Long Island Catholic League titles in 2017 and 2018. As a senior in 2018, he scored the game-winning goal in the championship game against rival St. Anthony’s with five seconds left in the game, a goal he counts as the biggest one he’s scored to date.

According to Pat, his style of play is a mixture of his older brothers’ and his own.

“I definitely have some bits and pieces of my older brothers’ games,” he said. “We’re all kind of a little undersized, so we have to play tough and gritty and that’s kind of our edge. I’d say I have a little more skill than my older brothers but we’re all kind of the same in that we play hard and unselfish.”

“I’d definitely say I’m more of a pass-first, get my teammates involved kind of player,” Kavanagh noted. “It’s kind of always been my game, I’m not saying I can’t score goals and get to the goal myself but I definitely would rather have an assist and have my teammates score off a pass from me than me score myself.”

The proof of that is in the numbers. As a freshman through an abbreviated, five-game 2020 schedule, Kavanagh finished second on the team in assists with six and tied for the team lead in goals and points with 10 and 16, respectively. Five games into this season, and he already has more assists (21) than last season. In other words, if Pat Kavanagh had a ceiling, it’s nowhere in sight.

Pat recalls his selection for the USA U19 men’s lacrosse team as his favorite lacrosse memory. The team was to compete in Ireland in the summer of 2020 before the pandemic hit. Yet again, Pat was following in brother Matt’s footsteps. In 2012, Matt won the gold medal with Team USA at the U19 World Championships in Turku, Finland and was named tournament MVP.

“After watching Matt play for that team, it was something I always wanted to do and a team I always wanted to make so that was pretty unbelievable when I made it.”

Make no mistake, it is no easy task to follow in the footsteps of Matt Kavanagh, a former four-time All-American selection at Notre Dame and one of the best attackmen in the burgeoning Premier Lacrosse League for the Redwoods LC. According to Pat, while some pressure of “shoe-filling” may be present, he tries not to focus on it.

“Everyone always asks me why I don’t wear #50,” Kavanagh said. “Matt made that number pretty legendary, it was just a random number and he made it pretty sweet, but I guess I just didn’t want that pressure, especially as a freshman, so I just chose #51.”

Matt’s career may have been special, but Pat is currently blazing his own path, one that has the potential to include Notre Dame’s first-ever national championship. Ten games into his career, it’s clear Pat is headed in the right direction. Better yet, with youngest brother Chris headed to South Bend next year, Notre Dame lacrosse will have two Kavanaghs at the same time for multiple seasons. That should scare all future Irish opponents.

For now, Pat will continue to set up his teammates for success and be a pivotal piece to the eighth-ranked Irish’s journey to a fifteenth straight NCAA tournament.

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