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Notre Dame's Chris Kavanagh goes to goal in the NCAA semifinals at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia

Defending Champ Notre Dame Races Past Denver in NCAA Semifinal

May 25, 2024
Matt DaSilva
Rich Barnes

Notre Dame is one game away from becoming the first team in a decade to win NCAA Division I men’s lacrosse championships in back-to-back years.

The top-seeded Fighting Irish defeated fifth-seeded Denver 13-6 in the first semifinal Saturday at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia and will play the winner of Maryland-Virginia for the national title Monday.

Notre Dame’s elite playmakers were in rare form Saturday. The Kavanagh brothers accounted for the Fighting Irish’s first three goals, including a sensational diving backhand by Chris Kavanagh. Jake Taylor nearly hit on a pair of between-the-legs attempts. Faceoff ace Will Lynch continued an incredible NCAA tournament run, outdueling fellow All-American Alec Stathakis with an 18-for-23 gem.

And yet, it was Notre Dame’s defense that stood out the most. Quality opportunities were in short supply for the Pioneers, who managed just three shots in the first quarter and shot just 2-for-17 in the second half.

They found little room to operate against the Fighting Irish’s close defense Chris Conlin, Marco Napolitano and Shawn Lyght. Short-stick defensive midfielder was excellent as well, with three caused turnovers and six ground balls. Goalie Liam Entenmann, the reigning NCAA championship MVP and a Tewaaraton Award finalist, made 12 saves.

Three-time Tewaaraton finalist Pat Kavanagh led Notre Dame with five points on three goals and two assists, putting an exclamation point on the win with a behind-the-back goal in the fourth quarter. Chris Kavanagh and Devon McLane also had hat tricks.

Richie Connell scored a pair of first-half goals for Denver, the second of which pulled the Pioneers within one late in the second quarter. It was 5-4 at halftime, but the Pioneers could not carry the momentum into the second half.

Notre Dame stretched its lead to 9-5 in the third quarter, then put away Denver with three goals in 63 seconds in the fourth quarter.

The Fighting Irish (15-1) have now won 13 straight games and have outscored their three NCAA tournament opponents 42-26. Lynch has played large role in that. The junior faceoff specialist who came into this season having never finished better than 50 percent is up to 66 percent (196-for-298) this year and 76 percent (57-for-75) in the postseason.

“Honestly? Experience,” Lynch said Saturday when ESPN’s Paul Carcaterra asked him how he has improved. “There have been some tough bumps along the way, but really, experience has been a big contributor.”

“It goes back to the selfless culture we have,” Lynch added. “When you’re a part of a group like this every day who really just puts their nose down and grinds, the culture we’ve built he last two years is something super special.”

The last team to win national championships in consecutive years was Duke in 2013-14. Virginia won consecutive NCAA titles in 2019 and 2021. There was no NCAA tournament in 2020 due to the pandemic.