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Chris Kavanagh was named the most outstanding player of the NCAA tournament.

Notre Dame Finishes Where it Started Atop USA Lacrosse Top 20

May 29, 2024
Patrick Stevens
Rich Barnes

Notre Dame finished right where it started — and where it ended up last year.

The USA Lacrosse preseason No. 1 wrapped up its second consecutive championship season with a 15-5 rout of Maryland on Memorial Day, cementing the Irish’s multi-year run as one of the best in the last quarter-century.

In that span, only Syracuse (2008-09) and Duke (2013-14) had claimed titles in back-to-back seasons before Notre Dame wrapped up a 30-3 burst in 2023 and 2024 with its dominant display on Memorial Day weekend.

The first champion to win each of its tournament games by at least five goals since 1990 Syracuse — and the first ever to do it over four games — the Fighting Irish stand alone atop the college men’s lacrosse landscape.


1. Notre Dame, 16-1 (Prev: 1)
2. Maryland, 11-6 (Prev: 6)
3. Denver, 13-4 (Prev: 4)
4. Virginia, 12-6 (Prev: 8)
5. Johns Hopkins, 11-5 (Prev: 2)
6. Duke, 13-6 (Prev: 3)
7. Syracuse, 12-6 (Prev: 7)
8. Georgetown, 13-4 (Prev: 10)
9. Penn State, 11-5 (Prev: 5)
10. Princeton, 11-5 (Prev: 9)
11. Michigan, 10-7 (Prev: 11)
12. Penn, 9-6 (Prev: 12)
13. Cornell, 9-5 (Prev: 13)
14. Towson, 13-4 (Prev: 14)
15. Yale, 11-4 (prev: 15)
16. Saint Joseph’s, 12-4 (Prev: 16)
17. Army, 11-3 (Prev: 17)
18. Richmond, 10-6 (Prev: 18)
19. Lehigh, 10-7 (Prev: 20)
20. North Carolina, 7-7 (Prev: 19)

Also considered (alphabetical order): Boston University (10-7), Delaware (9-5), Harvard (8-5), Utah (12-5), Villanova (9-7)

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Maryland (+4)

The Terrapins didn’t look like a top-two team late in the regular season. Truth be told, they didn’t look much like a top-10 team at that point, either.

But John Tillman still piloted Maryland to its eighth trip to the national title game since 2011, with faceoff ace Luke Wierman winning 71.2 percent at the X (72 of 101) in the postseason and Ajax Zappitello helping to keep Princeton’s Coulter Mackesy, Duke’s Josh Zawada and Virginia’s Connor Shellenberger in check in the first three rounds.

That was enough to vault the Terps to a runner-up finish. And in a year Notre Dame was easily the steadiest team, that turned out to be the best available spot for everyone else.

Virginia (+4)

The Cavaliers rebounded from a four-game losing streak heading into the postseason to dismiss Saint Joseph’s in the first round of the tournament and then scrap past Johns Hopkins in the quarterfinals. Everything about Virginia’s season suggested its defensive inconsistency would catch up to it eventually.

Instead, the year ended with a 12-6 loss to Maryland in the semifinals on a day the Terrapins sold out to keep Virginia out of transition and relied on Ajax Zappitello to neutralize Cavaliers star Connor Shellenberger. It worked. Virginia didn’t enjoy easy looks and instead sprayed the ball all over the place, and with Shellenberger contained, the Cavaliers couldn’t effectively initiate from elsewhere.

Still, it was Virginia’s fourth trip to the semifinals in the last five postseasons, a trend that bodes well for coach Lars Tiffany’s program as he nears a full decade in Charlottesville.

Georgetown (+2)

Kevin Warne is correct. If Georgetown had been offered at the end of 2023 a 13-4 record, a Big East tournament title and a third trip to the NCAA quarterfinals in four years, it rightfully would have signed up for it given the exodus of contributors last spring.

The Hoyas didn’t have enough answers to deal with Notre Dame in the NCAA quarterfinals, but they weren’t alone in that club this year. Their work in early May — overtime defeats of Providence and Villanova in the Big East tournament, then a comeback from down five goals in the first round of the NCAA tournament to Penn State — cemented this as a fine season.


Penn State (-4)

When Nittany Lions polished off a 19-9 thrashing of Maryland in the Big Ten semifinals on May 2 for their fourth year in a row, it seemed as if they were fully ready to make a similar run as a year ago. Instead of reaching the season’s final weekend, they wouldn’t win again.

Penn State followed that game up with a 16-4 loss to Michigan, a game that nudged the Nittany Lions into a road game for the NCAA tournament. And despite jumping to a five-goal lead in the second quarter, Penn State couldn’t sustain itself offensively and lost 12-9 to Georgetown in the first round.

Jeff Tambroni’s bunch was arguably the best unseeded team in the field, and it (along with Lehigh) had the most competitive showings in the first round. Getting slotted at No. 9 is an appropriate and fair final placement for the Nittany Lions.

Duke (-3)

It was anyone’s guess which version of the Blue Devils would show up (though chances were always strong they would play well after a loss). The trend continued to the very end, when Duke had the better of play in the first half in the NCAA quarterfinals against Maryland, only to secure scant possession after the break and eventually absorb a 14-11 loss to the Terrapins.

Duke beat a pair of final four teams (Denver and Virginia) and split with a quarterfinalist (Syracuse) … and yet it was ultimately one of the more befuddling teams of this season. A team that returned plenty from last year’s national runner-up earned its middle-of-the-top-10 placement to close 2024.

Johns Hopkins (-3)

The Blue Jays went 1-2 in May, posting a Big Ten semifinal loss to Michigan and an overtime loss to Virginia in the NCAA quarterfinals around a 13-10 first-round defeat of Lehigh that was tight until the final minutes.

It was Hopkins’ second consecutive quarterfinal appearance, and the program appears to be in sound shape four years into coach Peter Milliman’s tenure. The Blue Jays were a goal (or maybe a converted clear) away from returning to the semifinals for the first time since 2015. They earned their spot as the highest ranked team not to reach the final weekend.