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Ranking the Last 8 NCAA D1 Men’s Lacrosse Semifinals

Some of the most exciting and unforgettable moments of the last few years have come from the NCAA D1 Men’s Lacrosse Semifinals. One battle fought for every ticket on the way to the Championship Weekend epitomizes all the best skills and determination that can be found in any corner of the nation. Let’s waste no more time and go back over those four years of NCAA D1 Men’s Lacrosse Semifinals to underline the thrill and drama that these matchups brought to fans and players.

8) 2022 – (7) Cornell 17 – (6) Rutgers 10

An interesting matchup of a six vs. seven seed team in the semifinals. This was the year the Ivy League reigned supreme with six teams making appearances in the tournament. Both teams had a relatively easy path to get to this point, especially in relation to the other side of the bracket. A 3-1 first quarter score line showed potential, but Cornell really stuck ahead for the remainder of the game. Going into the fourth quarter, Cornell owned a 14-5 lead, with very little entertainment coming from a fan experience perspective. This is one of the most forgettable men’s lacrosse semifinals in recent memory with not much memorable star power on the field, paired with a lackluster game from start to finish.

7) 2021 – (3) Maryland 14 – (2) Duke 5

On paper, this should have been one of the most exciting semifinal matchups of the decade. Two highly ranked opponents with professional talent littered all over the field (Jared Bernhardt, Bubba Fairman, Logan Wisnauskas, Michael Sowers, Dyson Williams, Nakeie Montgomery, Brennan O’Neill, JT Giles-Harris). Coach Tillman in the month of May is a different animal, as his ability to understand schemes and gameplan is out of this world. A good first quarter, seeing a 2-1 Maryland lead, quickly diminished with an 8-3 scoreline at half. The Blue Devils went on to only score two goals in the second half, compared to Maryland’s six. Coach Danowski’s schemes were just too predictable to get past Maryland in this one.

6) 2024 – (7) Maryland 12 – (6) Virginia 6

This game was over after the first quarter, and everyone knew it. Maryland had been the surprise team to make the tournament but turned everything up a notch with a title opportunity on the line. Coach Tillman in May reigns supreme yet again, as Virginia had no answer on either side of the ball. The real winner of this one was Maryland’s defense, which held the trio of Million, Shellenberger, and Cormier to only six total points, forcing the Cavaliers to rely on other players to step up, which they never did. Nothing is worse than a game that you know is over within the first few minutes, as Virginia never was able to get their heads into the game.

5) 2022 – (1) Maryland 13 – (5) Princeton 8

Maryland’s undefeated season saw them going through Princeton to make it to Memorial Day. This is the first game featured on this list that at least had the necessary juice to make it a compelling game from start to finish. Princeton wanted it, and that was apparent. Huge first and third quarters kept the Tigers out of the game, but man did they have heart. It wasn’t until the midway through the third quarter that it became clear that Maryland was going to walk away on top. It constantly felt like Princeton could potentially get over the hump and go on a run, but they never did. The bright side is that they never truly gave up, unlike the other teams on this list.

4) 2024 – (1) Notre Dame 13 – (5) Denver 6

Who was going to stop Notre Dame? This matchup was extremely interesting due to the renewed rivalry. These teams have a long history of playing one another, especially in big moments during the 2010s. There is something very “blue-collar” about these schools, mostly due to their distance from the East Coast. The Fighting Irish seemed to be in the driver’s seat, but Denver always seemed to be grabbing at the wheel. Going into halftime with a Notre Dame 5-4 lead, it really did seem like the Pioneers could turn the corner in the second half, but Notre Dame had other ideas, going on an 8-2 run in the second half. The first half at least had promise, which is more than the other games lower on this list.

3) 2021 – (4) Virginia 12 – (1) North Carolina 11

Fans could have easily tuned out following a 7-1 run by the Cavaliers in the second quarter, prompting a 9-4 score line at half. The Tar Heels, with Chris Gray and Will Perry, had heart, gnawing their way back into the game. The sensation of watching North Carolina crawl their way back into this game in the fourth quarter was next-level, as they held the Cavaliers scoreless while also punching in three of their own. You could feel the energy in the air, that this was going to be one of the best comebacks of all time. With three minutes left in the game, the Tar Heels brought it within one but sadly couldn’t seal the deal down the stretch. From an entertainment standpoint, this is a top-tier game, and if North Carolina could have completed the comeback, it could have been an all-time legend.

2) 2023 – (1) Duke 16 – (5) Penn State 15

The motto in this matchup was offense, offense, offense. A 6-4 first quarter in favor of the Blue Devils showed what kind of game this was going to be. Right hooks followed by lefts never put either team in the driver’s seat. There were mini-runs by both sides but never enough to truly run away with the game. These offensive games are truly just a joy from a casual fan’s perspective. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good defensive battle, but the emotional highs of a back-and-forth fight like this are unbeaten. Overtime is ideal from a fan’s perspective. A controversial no-crease call to advance to Memorial Day certainly makes good television. The call was terrible, but it makes this game so much more memorable.

1) 2023 – (3) Notre Dame 13 – (2) Virginia 12

2023 brought one of the best NCAA D1 Men’s Lacrosse Semifinals series of all time, as every game delivered. Both teams were littered with talent, and the stakes couldn’t be higher. At no point in the game did either team take the bull by the horns and go on a run. The Irish would punch one in, followed by the Cavaliers with an answer. This trading of blows went back and forth for the entire game. The storyline of multiple players stepping up on both sides is a rare sight in games like this, as the wealth was certainly spread among all. Notre Dame was down two with three minutes remaining, and within a blink of an eye, the game was tied 11-11 with two minutes left. Suddenly, it was 12-12 with 30 seconds left! This span felt like an eternity for all the right reasons. Going to overtime in a game of this scale warranted the excitement and passion that the sport of lacrosse brings. Games don’t get much better than this.