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No. 1 Irish To Play For Second Straight National Title After 13-6 Takedown Of Denver

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

Photo by University of Notre Dame Athletics

Playing for a spot in Monday’s national title game, the top-ranked University of Notre Dame men’s lacrosse team met No. 5-ranked Denver on Saturday in Philadelphia in the 2024 NCAA Division I Men’s Lacrosse Championships Final Four.


The Irish, who knocked off Georgetown in last weekend’s quarterfinals in New York, were looking to return to the tournament finale for the second straight season. Last year, the white and gold earned the first championship in program history with a thrilling victory over ACC-rival Duke.


Slotting into Monday’s contest, however, would be no easy task. The Pioneers -- who boast the nation’s second-best scoring unit and a defensive group that has a combined 370 starts between all players -- arrived in Philly fresh off an impressive victory 10-8 victory over traditional lacrosse power Syracuse.


Looking to make a statement early, it was the 13-3 Pioneers who started the scoring in the opening 15 minutes.


Richie Connell’s 18th tally of the season put Denver -- 11-16 all-time against the defending national champs -- up 1-0 in front of a packed house at Lincoln Financial Field. But, as they have all season, the Irish had an answer. And once again, it was the Brothers Kavanagh leading the charge.


The electrifying Chris Kavanagh registered his 37th goal of the campaign to tie things at 1-1 with 10 minutes left in the opening frame. The junior was forced to go low just outside the crease, and the beautiful spot feed he received from Will Angrick put him in perfect position to even the score and get the Irish faithful on their feet.


Not to be outdone, the elder Kavanagh, Pat, would respond some three minutes later with a quick-fire goal, giving Notre Dame its first lead of the game at 2-1. The finest moment of the half, however, would come in the final minute of the first period.


With the Irish still ahead, the younger Kavanagh fed his older brother for an incredible behind-the-back goal -- one he scored while absorbing body blows and falling to the ground -- which gave ND a two-goal cushion.


Denver would fire back with consecutive goals in the second quarter to knot the score at 3-3 but responses by Jake Taylor (39th of season) and Jordan Faison (21st) at the 4:45 and 3:54 marks of the frame, respectively, provided Notre Dame -- the only team in America with both a Top 5 offense and defense -- with a 5-3 lead.


Though another score by Connell with eight seconds left in the half pulled Denver back to within one, the Irish ran into the break ahead, 5-4.


An essential piece to Notre Dame’s first-half success was the play of Will Lynch, who has grown into the nation’s best weapon in the faceoff department. The junior from New York won 10 of 11 opportunities in the first 30 minutes, a huge reason why the Irish were able to control tempo and grab the halftime lead.


A quick start for the Irish out of the break came via Pat Kavanagh, as his 30th of the campaign boosted the lead to 6-4. Later in the third with Notre Dame leading 6-5, Devon McLane -- the top-scoring midfielder this season in the ACC -- grabbed his 34th score of the year off a dynamite feed from Eric Dobson.


Less than two minutes later, fans were treated with an example of what makes this Irish 14-win Irish group so lethal.


After Liam Entenmann made his ninth stop on the day with eight and change remaining in the period, the Irish proceeded to run a perfect set. Working possession around the horn, the ball finally came back to Dobson, who followed up his assist from a moment ago with an 81-mile-an-hour bullet from the left side to give ND its largest lead of the game at 8-5.


The patience and communication on that possession was quintessential Notre Dame. It was also the type of momentum boost that capable of carrying a team down the stretch.


Later in the frame, the Irish went man-up following a Denver penalty but were unable to capitalize. Despite the inability to crack the nation’s top man-up defense, Notre Dame still found a way to put one between the pipes to stretch the lead.


A Pioneer turnover in the midfield turned into another brother-to-brother moment for the Kavanagh’s, with Pat feeding Chris for his 39th of the season. The goal helped CK collect another hat trick, but more importantly, gave America’s top team a four-goal cushion at 9-5, which is where the game stood heading into the final 15 minutes of action.


That final quarter could be described in two words: All. Irish.


Leading 9-6, the Irish fired off three straight goals in a sixty-second span to increase the advantage to an insurmountable six-goal advantage.


Back-to-back scores from McLane placed ND ahead 11-6 with 9:30 remaining in the contest. And when Nick Harris picked up his third of the season seven second later, Notre Dame was in cruise control with a 12-6 edge.


Pat Kavanagh would cap his stellar performance by picking up his third-straight hat trick at the 2:56 mark of the fourth quarter, and when it was all said and done, the Irish improved to 15-1 on the season and advanced to play for the program’s second straight national title.


Entenmann ended his day by turning aside 12 of the 18 shots that came his way, while Lynch took care of business once again, earning 18 of 23 faceoffs for the Irish.


What’s Next for the Irish?


Notre Dame will play for the 2024 Division I Men’s Lacrosse National Championship on Memorial Day (Monday, May 27) against the winner of the No. 6 Virginia v. No. 7 Maryland game.


The title bout will begin at 1 p.m. ET from Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, with ESPN anchoring television coverage.


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