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Notre Dame Lacrosse Dismantles Denver in Semifinals

The two offenses started the game by feeling each other out, seeing what the opposing defense would allow. There was no clear upper hand to be seen at the start, but each defense stayed home and followed the scouting reports. This started to pay dividends, as both teams struggled to get sound offensive looks. Unfortunately for Denver, JJ Sillstrop went out with an apparent injury early in the game, and would play injured for the remainder of the contest. Not what Pioneer fans wanted to see. Denver’s Richie Connell scored at 10:58 to open the scoring. The game then went into transition play, and Notre Dame’s next two goals came in unsettled situations by the Kavanagh brothers, Pat and Chris. The 2-1 score late in the first quarter was ideal for Denver; their “pack it in” defense was on as it forced Notre Dame’s high-powered offense to stay settled. They just had to limit any of those transition opportunities. A flashy behind-the-back from Chris Kavanagh, assisted by Pat Kavanagh, added up to his 38th on the year. That goal put the score at 3-1 in favor of Notre Dame as the first quarter came to a close. Denver had been limited to just three shots on goal for the entire quarter. The elite Notre Dame lacrosse defense was on full display.

Denver opened up the second quarter with an isolation dodge on a shortsick behind the cage by Lampert, and Stephen Avery quickly added another one for a 3-3 score. Denver really controlled the shot clock for the rest of the quarter, not letting Notre Dame have the ball and get back into this game. The strategy continued until the five-minute mark, as Notre Dame dropped two goals 50 seconds apart, showing why they are THE offensive juggernauts. Two points down at a scoreline of 5-3, Denver needed to take some points off that margin before the break. They succeeded in doing so after the Matt Brown time out. Richie Connell scored with 8 seconds left to swing the momentum as Notre Dame held a 5-4 lead to the half.

The third quarter began with exchanges in play. Notre Dame scored first on a goal by Pat Kavanagh. Each time it looked like the Irish were about to put together a run, Denver would score again and keep the Irish close. A “garbage goal” by Cody Malawski brought Denver back to within one, and then Eric Dobson found Devon McLane for one of the few settled six-on-six goals for Notre Dame thus far. Each goal would ratchet up the game to another level, keeping fans on their toes as to who would make a run. Denver would need one in order to get the lead, but the Fighting Irish would not let it happen. Dobson tallies again to make 8-5. While Denver’s defense had been great the first half in settled situations, at this point in the game the Irish scored on 5 of their last 6 shots. At the 6:18 mark, a questionable unnecessary roughness call was made on Denver, allowing Notre Dame to go man-up. They did not at first take advantage but a failed clear by Denver resulted in a great transition look for the Irish. The Kavanagh connection was palpable and their family chemistry seemed to be a competitive advantage.

Starting 5-9 down at the start of the fourth quarter, Denver managed to score early, keeping them in the contest. This goal was their first in 12 minutes, highlighting the fact they had few possessions in the third period. Then Notre Dame came to the lacrosse party with a vengeance, scoring three goals in consecutive possessions to put the game away from the Mile High City team. By then, the game was thought to feel over as Notre Dame just valued possessions and Denver played in desperation. The final score concluded at 13-6, Notre Dame extending the winning streak to 13 and earning a trip back to Memorial Day.

Whether the Irish are playing Maryland or Virginia, Notre Dame showed they can break down any defense in the nation by pulling out a win against the highly praised Denver defense. The No. 1-ranked team in the country now has the chance to head home with consecutive NCAA titles after Monday. It will be hard for anyone to take down this Notre Dame Men’s Lacrosse program.