Irish players celebrate following a goal against Duke on Friday night.

Irish Men's Lacrosse: Chasing a Second Straight ACC Crown in Philly

April 24, 2015

Chester, Pa. – It’s a sunny, windy 45 degrees this morning in Wilmington, Delaware, where the University of Notre Dame men’s lacrosse team is housed in advance of its Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament semifinal opener today against Duke.

12:15 p.m. — After a late breakfast, the Irish head out on their team bus on a 10-minute ride to Baynard Stadium, next door to Salesianum School (just north of downtown Wilmington) for a 45-minute workout in shorts and sweats. After a pre-dinner film and scouting session Thursday night, most of the serious preparation is concluded. By 1 p.m. the players and coaches are headed back to their bus–interrupted only by a mother and her two sons who talk their way onto the bus for a quick cellphone photo and a departing, “Good luck. Go Irish.”

2 p.m. — The Notre Dame party reconvenes in its second-floor headquarters for a combination lunch/pre-game meal (chicken, pasta, salad, vegetables). Irish coach Kevin Corrigan’s brother Brian stops by to say hello, and as most of the players finish eating volunteer assistant coach Kevin Anderson arrives.

3:15 p.m. — Most all the players are on the bus. Corrigan is the last to walk out at 3:23 and the bus pulls away.

3:53 p.m. — The Irish arrive at PPL Park. As the top seed, Notre Dame dresses in the MLS Philadelphia Union locker room. ACC officials noted Thursday that 6,000 tickets had been sold, with the presale about three times what it was in 2014.

4:30 p.m. — The Irish fire shots at an empty net during pre-warm-ups. It’s now 53 degrees with puffy clouds and sunshine. Corrigan visits with ESPNU sideline report Paul Carcaterra, as country rock music leaves a mellow background vibe.

4:45 p.m. — The Irish are back in their locker room, setting up their initial warm-up. “Let’s do what we do,” says Corrigan. Notre Dame players stretch, as Anderson throws shots at the goaltenders on the pristine grass field. Assistant coach Matt Karweck works with the face-off specialists.

5:10 p.m. — Assistant Gerry Byrne wields a stick and throws groundballs to his defensemen. Corrigan chats briefly with the officials.

5:13 p.m. — The Irish leave the field. They change quickly into their white jerseys.

“There’s not a lot to say,” offers Corrigan. “We know who we’re playing. We know the nature of the capabilities of every team in this league. There are not huge levels of separation with anybody in this league. What that means is that this is going to go 60 minutes. We’re going to have to fight our butts off for 60 minutes. Let’s go be us.”

5:30 p.m. — Duke turns it over twice early, and the Irish have a flurry of shots. But defense prevails and no one scores in the opening period. Notre Dame has 12 shots on goal, while Duke has seven in the first period. Matt Kavanagh can’t connect on any of his six shots. It’s the first time in 2015 the Irish have not scored in a period (second time for Duke).

6:01 p.m. — Duke finally breaks the ice with a goal at 14:19 (Case Matheis) of the second period, then adds a second (Kyle Keenan) at 13:03 (both unassisted). Then the Blue Devils make it 3-0 at 11:41 on a second unassisted effort by Matheis.

6:07 p.m. — Notre Dame finally gets on the board at 8:58 on a goal by Nick Ossello off a feed from Kavanagh. Duke responds at 4:36 with a Myles Jones connection that bounces in, and rookie Justin Guterding makes it 5-1 at 2:45. It’s the first time the Irish trail at half in 2015, and it’s their largest deficit this year (previous high was two goals–in the last two games, Marquette and North Carolina).

6:25 p.m. — The first half ends with Duke on top 5-1. Both teams have 17 shots. Duke has 11 turnovers to eight for the Irish. The Blue Devils have won five of eight face-offs. The five goals allowed in the second period by Notre Dame matches its most permitted in a period in 2015 (also by Syracuse in third period and Virginia in fourth period). The previous low for goals in a first half by Notre Dame in 2015 was three versus Ohio State.

6:40 p.m. — Duke picks up where it left off with a goal at 12:28 of the third period by Jack Bruckner. Then Matheis notches his hat trick at 10:13 and it’s 7-1 for the Blue Devils. That prompts Conor Kelly in goal for the Irish–but at 5:09 it goes to 8-1 on another tally by Keenan. Then it’s 9-1 at 4:06 on a second by Guterding–and 10-1 11 seconds later on a goal by Will Haus.

7 p.m. — Finally Mikey Wynne counters at 1:05 of the third from Cole Riccardi. It’s 10-2 for Duke after three periods.

7:07 p.m. — Duke’s Kyle Rowe increases the margin to 11-2 at 14:51 of the final period–and then it’s 12-2 at 12:05 by Matheis (his fourth). Sergio Perkovic answers for the Irish at 10:48 (his 21st of the year) and it’s 12-3, Jack Near adds another at 9:50 and Will Corrigan a third at 8:25. Duke calls time. Ossello notches his second at 7:40 and the lead is now 12-6. The Irish have four goals in 3:08.

7:17 p.m. — Perkovic notches another one unassisted at 4:55, Kavanagh connects at 4:14 and the Irish comeback attempt now features six straight goals. But that’s as far as it goes. Guterding adds a final tally for Duke and it ends 13-8. The Blue Devils outscore Notre Dame 5-1 in both the second and third periods, and it’s simply too much to overcome.

7:25 p.m. — It’s a quiet locker room for an Irish team that isn’t used to dealing with nine-goal deficits.

Says Irish coach Kevin Corrigan in the interview room, “On our first couple of possessions I thought we had about five great chances. We just did not play good offense after that for an extended period of time. I thought we had some sloppy turnovers, and we had some guys forcing things that just weren’t there. We played as though it was going to be easy, but it wasn’t going to be easy. Call it impatience, call it a lack of good judgment. We forced too many things and gave away too many possessions.”

The Notre Dame focus now turns to a final regular-season contest at Army next Saturday (May 2).

Is there consolation for the Irish? A year ago this time, Duke lost a late lead and fell to Syracuse in the ACC semifinal opposite Notre Dame’s win over top-seeded Maryland–and the Blue Devils went on to claim the 2014 NCAA title.

Only time will tell what the month of May holds for Notre Dame in 2015.

— by John Heisler, senior associate athletics director