The No. 6 Notre Dame Fighting Irish upended the No. 7 Maryland Terrapins 11-6 on Saturday in their men's lacrosse NCAA Championship semifinal bout.
Notre Dame got hot early behind the stick of Matt Kavanagh and never looked back thanks to his five goals and two assists, while goalie Conor Kelly saved 14 shots in the face of a steady Terrapins barrage.
For Maryland, two goals from Joe LoCascio and an aggressive pace were not enough to go the distance after keeping pace with a team it had split the regular-season series with. Netminder Niko Amato notched 10 saves, but surrendered 11 goals.
Maryland senior attackman Mike Chanenchuk told Edward Lee of The Baltimore Sun before the game that the rubber match between the two sides had a certain intrigue to it:
It's definitely interesting. This has happened to us before with Duke [in 2011 and 2012]. So it's kind of a familiar matchup. I think for us splitting them in the regular season, it definitely makes it interesting. I think it's a little bit easier to scout the team. We're familiar with them, we're familiar with their personnel. It definitely makes it little bit easier, but you know that they're probably going to mix something up and throw something different at you. They're a really good team, and we're looking forward to it.
Suffice it to say, this budding ACC rivalry had grand expectations to match, as ESPNU helps to illustrate via a summary of the first two meetings between the two sides:
Let's just say it delivered.
The Fighting Irish jumped out to an early 2-0 lead, which proved to be an ominous sign for the remaining three quarters and change.
Kavanagh scored goal No. 36 of his impressive season about five minutes into the opening quarter, which was followed by a goal from John Scioscia a little more than a minute later—courtesy of an assist from Kavanagh.
Maryland proved game, though, and finally responded with 4:25 left in the opening quarter, as LoCascio found the back of the net to cut the lead to one. Connor Cannizzaro connected on goal No. 26 of his season to knot things up.
LoCascio's goal was certainly a sigh of relief for Terrapins faithful, as Maryland's official lacrosse Twitter account details:
The pipe robs the Terps twice, but LoCascio finally gets a shot to go and puts the Terps on the board. 2-1 ND, 4:25 1Q.— Maryland MLax (@MDTerpsLacrosse) May 24, 2014
That relief was short lived, as Kavanagh found the back of the net yet again with 16 seconds left in the first quarter, followed by a goal from Nick Ossello just seven seconds later to make it 4-2.
Got all that? That was just the opening quarter.
The second was more of the same, as both sides exchanged two scores. Notre Dame scored first via Conor Doyle and the second from—guess who—Kavanagh to make it 6-2. As Notre Dame senior associate athletics director for media John Heisler notes, that six proved an important milestone:
Irish already have six goals -- and that's how many they had in entire game vs. Maryland in ACC semifinal matchup (a 6-5 ND win).— John Heisler (@NDHeisler) May 24, 2014
But, yet again, Maryland proved game and responded with a pair of goals of its own. LoCascio scored his second goal of the contest with 8:34 left in the first half in an effort to match Kavanagh and was shortly followed by a goal from Jay Carlson to make it 4-6.
Heisler provided the important numbers at the break:
1st half stats: MD leads in shots 19-18; ND leads 16-15 in ground balls; MD won 10 of 12 faceoffs; MD 12 TOs to 7 for ND; Saves: MD 6, ND 7— John Heisler (@NDHeisler) May 24, 2014
The third quarter is where things got out of hand.
Notre Dame connected on four goals in the 15-minute period to pull away. Ossello grabbed his second of the game early on, followed by two straight goals from Kavanagh—giving him a total of five to put his team up 9-5.
The Observer provided a jarring look at his performance:
Sandwiched in between Kavanagh's scoring efforts was a goal from Henry West for the Terrapins, but his 16th goal of the year at the 7:14 mark was but a formality.
This is especially the case considering Pat Cotter—on an assist from Kavanagh—scored his fourth goal of the season with 2:03 left in the third quarter to make it 10-5.
As the ESPN2 broadcast noted, Maryland entered Saturday 3-12 under coach John Tillman when trailing after three quarters.
There was hardly any doubt that needle would move to 3-13 entering the final frame. Chanenchuk finally got on the board for his 36th score of the season to bring it to 10-6, but the Terrapins otherwise went out with a whimper while the Fighting Irish coasted, adding one more goal from Scioscia with about a minute left.
Which team will win the title?
Notre Dame moves on to encounter the No. 1 Duke Blue Devils, a team that has scored at an incredible clip to this point in the bracket and just downed No. 5 Denver 15-12 to reach the final.
For Kavanagh and the Fighting Irish, there is no option—they will have to yet again score at a fast pace early and often to stand a chance, as no team will slow the Blue Devils through defense.
In other words, don't miss out—high-octane offense is sure to rule the day when Duke and Notre Dame hook up Monday with the NCAA Championship hanging in the balance.
Note: All info courtesy of NCAA.com unless otherwise noted.