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Defending Champion Irish Tested, Move Past UAlbany To Reach NCAA Tournament Quarterfinals With 14-9 Win

Written by Peter Jay Mulroy ⏐ Writer ⏐ Instagram: @sportstodaywithpeterjay

Photo by University of Notre Dame Athletics

Notre Dame began its quest for a second straight national championship Saturday in South Bend with a match-up against the University of Albany in the first round of the 2024 NCAA Men’s Division I Lacrosse Championship.


Fresh off an ACC title, in which they looked like the clearcut No. 1 team in the nation with convincing wins over Virginia and Duke, respectively, the Irish (12-1 overall) jumped out to an early lead on the Great Danes (10-7 overall), though the visitors made things difficult defensively.


Devon McLane popped home his 28th goal of the season to give Notre Dame -- 3-0 all-time against UAlbany -- the early advantage, but a quick answer from Ben Wimmer allowed the Great Danes to knot the score at one apiece midway into the frame. A strong defensive battle would develop over the next several minutes, with Liam Entenmann protecting the white and gold in net by corralling four saves across the first 15 minutes of action as both offenses looked to find their rhythm.


But when Jake Taylor sent his 36th score of the season between the pipes off a clean feed from Reilly Gray, ND was back in front, a welcome sight for those in attendance at Arlotta Stadium. The Irish -- who defeated Albany in the 2015 NCAA Tournament -- extended the 2-1 lead they held at the end of the first quarter with consecutive tallies from Reilly Gray (11th of season) and a second by McLane, as the offense was back in its usual cohesive form.


Trailing by three goals eight minutes into the second, Albany -- who took down Sacred Heart on Wednesday in the Opening Round of the NCAA Tournament -- would fight back to knot the score at four apiece, a run that began largely due to a huge Notre Dame penalty.


Irish midfielder Carter Parlette was called for targeting at the 7:41 mark of the second quarter, and after the Great Danes were able to clear the zone 90 seconds later, Amos Whitcomb threw in his 13th goal of the year to make the score 4-3.


Whitcomb’s man-up goal would help continue UAlbany’s surge of momentum, as Ryan Doherty’s 35th marker of the year less than one minute later evened the score at 4-4, while silencing the Irish faithful in the process.


Then, with seven seconds remaining in the half, Doherty punched home another to give the Great Danes a 5-4 lead heading into the break. The Irish thought they’d tied the score at the buzzer, but Chris Kavanagh’s rocket shot, which found the back of the net, was taken off the board as it did not leave his stick in time.


Despite the difficulties the first 30 minutes of play presented, the Irish rebounded in a big way to open the second half.


The third quarter had been a period of struggles for the Great Danes, as the America East champs were outscored 62-47 in the frame during the regular season. Notre Dame exploited that deficiency in a major way coming out of the locker room, registering four straight goals on four shot attempts to open the second half.


Two goals in 47 seconds -- the first by Chris Kavanagh (his 31st of the season) and the next by Max Busenkell (10th), put the defending national champions back in front, 6-5. Not to be outdone, the stellar Devon McLane completed the hat trick with his third of the game at the 9:33 mark of the period. And when Chris Kavanagh registered another goal with 6:57 remaining in the third, it was clear the Irish -- now ahead 8-5 -- had finally found their swagger.


Thanks to outscoring their opponent 5-1 in the third, top-ranked Notre Dame went into the final 15 minutes of action with the all-important 9-6 lead.


The Irish kept bringing the offense in the fourth quarter as well, with McLane picking up his fourth of the game to match his season-high, while Eric Dobson continued to pile up the assists. It was Dobson who fed McLane for ND’s 11th goal of the contest, with his third of a whopping five helpers on the day aiding in the Irish extending their lead to 11-6 with under 12 minutes remaining.


Additional fourth-quarter goals by Jordan Faison (19th of season), and the third each by both Taylor and Pat Kavanagh, provided Notre Dame with complete control of the game and allowing them to take precious time off the clock over the course of the final few minutes.


When it was all said and done, Notre Dame advanced to the quarterfinals of the NCAA Tournament for the twelfth time in the past 14 seasons thanks to a 14-9 victory over a pesky UAlbany squad.


What’s Next for the Irish?


Notre Dame will do battle with the No. 8-seeded Georgetown Hoyas on Saturday, May 18 at Hofstra University’s James Shuart Stadium in Hempstead, NY. Georgetown handed Notre Dame its only loss of the season when it took down the Irish, 11-10 in overtime, on Feb. 25 in South Bend.


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