The top-seeded Duke Blue Devils and the sixth-seeded Notre Dame Fighting Irish will renew acquaintances in the NCAA men's lacrosse championship Monday on Memorial Day.
This is the second time in five years that Notre Dame and Duke will meet in the final. The sides met in 2010, and Duke won a 6-5 OT thriller at the M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore.
That will once again be the site where the Blue Devils and the Fighting Irish will decide which program holds sway over the collegiate lacrosse scene.
Here are the vitals for the game.
When: Monday, May 26 at 1 p.m. ET
Where: M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore
TV: ESPN 2
How They Got Here
The Fighting Irish are still chasing their first national title in lacrosse. After reaching the Final Four three times in the last five years, it's an understatement to say they have been knocking on the door.
Notre Dame will be facing a red-hot and dominant Duke squad. The Blue Devils rebounded from a sluggish early March to finish the regular season strong. The team has dropped just one game since a 14-7 defeat to Loyola on March 9.
The two teams have already met head-to-head this season. Back on April 5, Duke easily defeated Notre Dame 15-7 behind a combined nine goals from Deemer Class (5) and Jordan Wolf (4).
Slowing down the powerful Duke offense is the biggest issue Notre Dame faces. Duke hasn't been held under 15 points in 11 games.
Notre Dame has been much better since it was blasted by Duke in the regular season. The team has suffered only one loss since then. The psychological edge is in Duke's favor, but Notre Dame has undoubtedly improved.
Has Notre Dame improved enough to knock off Duke?
Whose Year Is It?
After the regular-season meeting between the two teams, Duke head coach John Danowski talked about his hot team, which had won six in a row on its way to an eight-game win streak. Per GoDuke.com, Danowski said, "You watch individuals gain confidence over the course of a season and then group chemistry begins to develop because kids have confidence not only in themselves, but in each other. So you play with a different calmness and it’s been interesting to observe."
That confidence and chemistry have been apparent since early March, when the team hit its struggles. During the NCAA tournament, Duke has outscored opponents 54-32. The senior Wolf has been the most consistent performer.
He's scored a team-high 12 goals in the three tournament games.
Notre Dame's Matt Kavanagh has been almost as good. He has 10 goals in the tournament, but his supporting cast isn't as strong as Wolf's.
Class and Kyle Keenan are both capable of exploding for Duke against Notre Dame. Class lit up the Fighting Irish in the regular season, and Keenan had four goals against Denver in the semifinals on Saturday.
Referencing Keenan's 19 goals and nine assists through the first two tournament games, The Herald Sun's Steve Wiseman said this about Keenan: "Keenan has certainly shown the ability to score and help teammates score this season. [His] job is to keep the high-powered Duke offense rolling. It seems apparent he has fulfilled his duties."
Notre Dame doesn't have as much scoring depth.
Also, the Fighting Irish aren't as sound defensively. In two of the three tournament games, they were outshot by their opponents. While the team was able to overcome Harvard, Albany and Maryland, it won't have the same luck allowing more shots on goal against Duke.
The Blue Devils simply have too much firepower.
Duke will win the national championship. Figure on a score of 13-7.
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