Irish look for fitting end to another monumental season under Corrigan
Luke Thompson | Friday, May 21, 2021
The Notre Dame Fighting Irish men’s lacrosse team will begin its postseason on Saturday, May 15 with a first-round matchup against the Drexel Dragons and will be looking to close out another successful season by capturing the program’s elusive first national championship. The sixth-seeded Irish completed the regular season at 7-3 (3-3 ACC) and were outright dominant at home, winning six of seven games at Arlotta Stadium — including a thrilling upset of the then number one ranked Duke Blue Devils in early April.
The team — led by Coach Kevin Corrigan for an astounding thirty-third consecutive season — started out the season very strong, winning their first four games before conference play. Within the ACC, the Fighting Irish held their own at .500, finishing third out of the five teams in the incredibly competitive league. After mostly breezing through the non-conference schedule, the Irish dropped their first game against a conference opponent in a home date with the defending national champion Virginia Cavaliers. The Irish rebounded from the tight 11-12 loss with an impressive 18-11 win over the then number four Syracuse Orange in the Carrier Dome. Sophomore Pat Kavanaugh (younger brother of former Irish standout Matt) tied the program single-game record (once again) with nine points against the Orange, putting the ball in the back of the net himself four times and assisting in an additional four goals.
The game in Syracuse provided Coach Corrigan with his 310th win at Notre Dame, tying the record for the most wins at a single program in college lacrosse history. His first chance to break the record came at home against the number-one ranked Duke Blue Devils. In an exciting atmosphere at Arlotta Stadium, the Irish upset the nation’s top team and delivered their coach an enormous milestone with a dominant 13-8 win. The then-undefeated Blue Devils could only muster 8 goals in what was a strong demonstration of the Irish’s defensive prowess. Coach Corrigan, having achieved his landmark 311th victory at Notre Dame, characteristically focused more on how his team had pulled off this impressive upset than his own outstanding individual achievement, emphasizing that his primary concern was that his team “continues to improve” after this exciting win. Even after pulling off what was easily the biggest win of the season and one of the most momentous of his decades-spanning career, Corrigan acknowledged that a concentration on the team’s “continued development” is the only way the team could get “where [they] want to be, which most importantly … is in the tournament and playing our best lacrosse then.”
Corrigan noted “the results will take care of themselves,” if the Irish maintained focus on their training and continual improvement rather than dwelling on their great success against the Blue Devils.
The now-fourth ranked Irish faced off against the Blue Devils again in Durham immediately after a twelve-day break in their unmerciful ACC schedule after their win over Duke. The Irish failed to replicate their success on the road, falling 12-13 in an overtime thriller. The Irish continued their skid a few days later, losing 10-12 to the North Carolina Tar Heels in Chapel Hill. The Irish were able to rebound from their losses on their southern road trip in their final game of the season against Syracuse. The Irish repeated their earlier success against the Orange, this time at home, blowing out the visitors 22-8. Kavanaugh again stood tall for the Irish, breaking the same program record he had tied earlier in the season for points in a single game with a whopping ten. Kavanaugh’s monumental effort — which included a balanced five goals and assists — was a fitting end to a remarkable regular season for the sophomore attackman. Kavanaugh also broke his own brother’s record for the most assists in a single season in program history after recording his 33rd on the year against the Orange. Kavanaugh racked up a team-leading 59 points this season and was named as one of only five finalists for the 2021 men’s Tewaaraton Award, which is given annually to the top player in men’s college lacrosse.
Following their second victory over Syracuse, the Irish surged up to fourth in the national rankings and earned the sixth seed in the NCAA tournament. The Irish opened up with a 10-8 win in Denver on Saturday over the Colonial Athletic Association champion Drexel Dragons. The Irish held off a late rally by the Dragons to secure their spot in the second round of the Championships, wielding a home field advantage over the Maryland Terrapins who come into town on Saturday.
This is the sixteenth straight season the Irish have made a trip to the NCAA tournament, a testament to the powerhouse Corrigan has created at Notre Dame in his thirty-three years at the program. The Irish will be looking to finally capture the national championship that they have long pursued and narrowly missed a few times. Corrigan led the Irish to two runner-up finishes and five final fours in the last two decades, but the national championship has barely eluded the Irish for awhile now. With three top-ten victories on the year and a young superstar in Kavanaugh, Corrigan will look to shepherd this clearly-outstanding team throughout the gauntlet of the NCAA tournament and finally come away with his first national title.