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Pat Kavanagh hoists the walnut and bronze trophy while surrounded by his Notre Dame teammates in a celebration at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia.

Notre Dame Repeats as NCAA Champion with Memorial Day Blowout

May 27, 2024
Patrick Stevens
Rich Barnes

PHILADELPHIA — Monday’s Division I men’s lacrosse title game started late and was over early.

Top-seeded Notre Dame extinguished any drama from this year’s Memorial Day proceedings well before halftime, blitzing seventh-seeded Maryland 15-5 before 31,479 at Lincoln Financial Field to complete a march to a second consecutive national championship.

Chris Kavanagh, the tournament’s most outstanding player, scored five goals and Tewaaraton Award finalist Pat Kavanagh had six assists for the Fighting Irish (16-1), who shrugged off an early two-goal hole to cruise to the most lopsided title game romp since Princeton ripped Maryland 15-5 in 1998.

“This is what we play for and this is what we live for, these opportunities in big games and big moments,” said fifth-year goalie Liam Entenmann, whose team became the first to win titles in back-to-back years since 2013-14 Duke. “I guess the target is still on our back going into next year, but that’s how we want it. We don’t want to be anything other than the best and we showed that today.”

If Notre Dame was thrown off by a 2 hour, 10-minute delay at the start — negating the NCAA’s well-intentioned attempt to avoid any problems with the weather by moving the start up to noon — it wasn’t apparent.

Instead, the Irish used their depth to overwhelm the Terrapins (11-6), getting goals from all three second-line midfielders and two of their third-line options.

Notre Dame became the first team since 1990 Syracuse to win every game by at least five goals en route to a title. Only six teams in tournament history have done it, and the Irish are the only ones to do so while playing four games rather than three.

“They were the most consistent team all year,” Maryland coach John Tillman said. “They proved it. They were certainly the best team today. So hats off to them. I just think the way they play, they’re just really, really good everywhere. Someone said they had 11 All-Americans. It felt like it today.”

Entenmann, Notre Dame’s other Tewaaraton finalist, made 11 of his 16 saves in the second half to join the Kavanaghs on the all-tournament team. The Irish’s other all-tournament team nods went to defenseman Shawn Lyght, midfielder Devon McLane and short-stick defensive midfielder Ben Ramsey.

Daniel Kelly scored twice for Maryland, earning an all-tournament nod along with faceoff ace Luke Wierman and defenseman Ajax Zappitello. Virginia attackman Connor Shellenberger rounded out the all-tournament team.

It was telling that Wierman was 17 of 24 on faceoffs — getting the better of an appealing matchup with Notre Dame’s Will Lynch, who was on a postseason tear before a 6-of-22 showing — and it hardly mattered.

Neither did Maryland’s 2-0 lead, which fleetingly hinted at the possibility of a title game much more competitive than Saturday’s two lopsided semifinals.

Not so much.

Notre Dame’s second midfield line got the Irish on the board, with Max Busenkell finding Will Angrick. Later, Busenkell scored unassisted to give Notre Dame its first lead at 3-2.

After a quick reply from the Terps’ Jack Koras, Notre Dame brought its third line on — and Jalen Seymour promptly deposited a Pat Kavanagh feed to put the Irish ahead for good and spark a seven-goal run.

Second-liner Reilly Gray scored to cap that burst to make it 10-3. In the third quarter, third-line option Fisher Finley scored his second goal of the year

“They’re an awesome team,” Maryland long-stick midfielder Jack McDonald said. “With the firepower they have, with the Kavanaghs and running three midfields deep, it’s tough. They have some awesome players. They capitalized on our mistakes and it was very apparent when we made those mistakes. They had a bunch of older guys and they just made plays.”

It was Chris Kavanagh who made more of them than anyone in the postseason, finishing the Irish’s four-game run with 14 goals and eight assists. It included an eight-point effort in the quarterfinals against Georgetown, and he was the only player in this year’s tournament to have a pair of five-goal games.

He scored three times in Notre Dame’s second-quarter onslaught, then tacked on two more in a 62-second span to make it 13-4 in the third. He finished the year with 44 goals and 37 assists.

His 81 points are the most in a single season in Irish history, just ahead of the 80 that Pat Kavanagh amassed this year.

“The kid is blossoming into a superstar, but he’s always been one,” Pat Kavanagh said. “He’s played unselfishly his first few years and taken some time to grow and develop in areas that were a little weaker earlier in his college career and you saw it this year. I think he had 16 total assists last year as a sophomore, kind of a pure goal scorer, and this year almost 40 assists. He took an incredible leap.”

The drubbing evoked memories of some of the Terps’ surprising title game appearances early in Tillman’s tenure. Maryland scrapped its way into the 2012 final as an unseeded team, only to fall in a 9-3 snoozer to Loyola. Three years later, the Terps were a No. 6 seed that made it to Monday, only to get doubled up 10-5 by Denver.

The lulls in the action in those pre-shot clock days made those games forgettable for everyone except the programs that celebrated their first championships. Things kept moving Monday, albeit almost entirely in the Irish’s direction.

Still, playing on the last day of the season seemed exceedingly unlikely a little more than three weeks ago, when Maryland was coming off losses to Johns Hopkins (7-5) and Penn State (19-9) heading into the postseason. But the Terps clobbered Princeton in the first round, surged past a flummoxed Duke bunch in the quarterfinals and then stymied Virginia in Saturday’s semifinals.

But answers just weren’t easy to find against the Irish.

“As [former Maryland coach] Dick Edell said, if this is the worst day of their life, they’re going to have amazing lives,” Tillman said. “I know they hurt right now and it should hurt because they put so much in. If I’m someone who loves Maryland lacrosse and Maryland sports, this group laid it all out. Certainly, if you want to just look at us for 60 minutes, you can judge that way. I refuse to.”

There’s only one way to assess Notre Dame this season: clearly the best in the country. Aside from an overtime loss to Georgetown on Feb. 25, the Irish largely plowed through the opposition.

And even after being tied in the fourth quarter of three eventual victories in April, Notre Dame won its six games in May by an average of 7.7 goals — and dropped the curtains on Maryland and the 2024 season long before the final horn sounded Monday.