March 18, 2018
By John Heisler
The optics made no sense.
The Virginia men’s lacrosse team arrived at Notre Dame’s Arlotta Stadium for a twilight matchup Saturday at 6-1, ranked seventh in the country and with a free-wheeling offense that rated the Wahoos fourth nationally in scoring (13.71 goals per game).
Meanwhile, no senior on the Virginia men’s lacrosse team knows what it’s like to win an Atlantic Coast Conference regular-season game (the Cavaliers last won a league matchup on March 1, 2014, against Syracuse).
Fourth-rated Notre Dame (4-1, 1-0 in the ACC) made certain that visiting team’s streak advanced to 18 in a row-as Irish veterans Mikey Wynne and John Sexton and their mates made all the right plays down the stretch.
The home team came from behind with three straight fourth-period goals-the tying and go-ahead versions by Wynne–to hold off the Cavaliers 9-7 at Arlotta in the Irish league opener.
After back-to-back home wins over teams rated in the top seven (the Irish defeated fourth-ranked Denver a week ago), Irish coach Kevin Corrigan likes the idea that his group is forming its own identity-in great part because of an unselfish offensive approach, a typically productive Notre Dame defense and the grittiness to take on the most difficult schedule in the country.
Before the game Corrigan compared the Irish task to the ongoing NCAA Men’s Basketball Championships:
“You guys know I love this time of year when you see the teams that came out the other end. We’re in the middle of our thing, and they’re at the end. Every single one of those teams has an identityÃƒÆ’Â¢ÃƒÂ¢’Â¬”at this point they know what that is. They have confidence because they’ve made the bracket. You earn that confidence with what you do every day. An identity is forged in the course of actual games.
“When you see the progress we’ve made since the start of our season, much of it has to do with forming that identity. Making every possession count at both ends of the field. Playing with that intensity for 60 minutes.
“I want to see us play like a late-season team today. With that energy and excitement and that joy-with that identity and confidence that a great team has.”
The Irish, who blew out to a 6-1 first-period lead the previous week against Denver, did the same versus Virginia.
In an amazing game of runs on St. Patrick’s Day, here’s how it unfolded for the Irish in their alternate white uniforms and helmets with green trim:
–Notre Dame scored four times in the opening 4:38–two by Wynne and one each by Pere Byrne and Bryan Costabile.
At that pace it looked like the Irish might score 50 goals.
–Then precocious Virginia sophomore attack Michael Kraus (last year’s ACC Rookie of the Year) scored four goals of his own in succession in an 11:06 span of the first and second periods to knot the game at four.
At that pace it looked like Kraus (his father Steve played lacrosse at Virginia with Corrigan) himself might score 50.
—Brendan Gleason‘s tally at 7:46 made it 5-4 for the Irish, and Costabile scored in the final minute for a 6-4 edge at intermission.
–It was all Virginia in the third period as the Cavaliers outshot Notre Dame 12-3 and took the lead with three consecutive markers, the last of those a man-up score by Mike D’Amario with three minutes left in that period.
–Wynne wasted no time, tying the game 52 seconds into the last period and giving the Irish the lead for good 108 seconds late on a nifty feed from Ryder Garnsey. Wynne’s four goals marked a season best.
–Neither team scored the rest of the way until the 53-second mark when Gleason amazingly fought through a Virginia double team to notch the goal that clinched it for the Irish.
Sexton, who finished with a career-best eight ground balls and five caused turnovers (after only one through the first four games), came up with two of those in the late stages to ensure the smiles in the home locker room.
The Irish held the Wahoos without a shot for more than seven minutes and forced the visitors into a half-dozen final-period turnovers.
The two teams combined to go one for nine in extra-man opportunities.
The Irish had won their previous two meetings against Virginia in overtime-on game-winning goals by Sergio Perkovic in 2016 and Garnsey in 2017.
That made this two-goal win-the largest in the series since 2014-look like a romp.
Virginia now stands 6-2, 0-2 in league play.
“That was the hard way-it wasn’t easy today,” said Corrigan in the postgame locker room. “Sometimes you get those first four goals on the first four shots and you think it’s going to be easy. Then you’ve got to play the next 55 minutes and it’s never easy in the league we play in.
“That’s a very talented team, and we made them play our game. I feel good about this game because I thought maybe we were going to come into this game feeling too good about ourselves.”
The Irish will keep going against Big Ten opposition-Wednesday at home versus Michigan and then next Sunday at 18th-rated Ohio State in Columbus.
“Let’s keep our eye on the ball,” added Corrigan. “I love the way we’re building. We add something to our arsenal every game-today it was grit. I love a ‘W’ like that. On some days it’s not pretty.
“Let’s keep going.”