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Ravens Insider: Mike Preston: Sorry, Maryland, but Notre Dame men’s lacrosse was an immovable object | COMMENTARY


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PHILADELPHIA — The most telling moment of the NCAA Division I men’s lacrosse championship game occurred with about five minutes left in the second quarter.

Senior attackman Pat Kavanagh threw a pass from behind the goal to brother and teammate Chris Kavanagh, who backhanded and shuffled a shot past Maryland goalie Logan McNaney. The strike gave the Fighting Irish a six-goal lead.

Seconds later, Maryland defenseman Colin Burlace looked to the Terps sideline with a blank look on his face as if to say, “Well, what can I do about that?”

The answer was: nothing. The Terps had no answers for top-seeded Notre Dame as the Fighting Irish rolled to a 15-5 win Monday at Lincoln Financial Field to claim their second straight national title.

Maryland (11-6) seemed to be on the verge of a possible upset in front of a crowd of 31,479 when the Terps jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead on goals from midfielder Ryan Siracusa and attackman Daniel Kelly, but it didn’t take long for Notre Dame to take control of the game.

It was a beatdown, the largest margin of victory in a title game since Princeton beat the Terps by the same score in 1998.

After losing to Georgetown, 11-10, in overtime on Feb. 25, the Fighting Irish won 14 straight games. They beat Maryland, Duke and Virginia in the regular season, then took down each of those lacrosse powers again by even bigger margins in the postseason.

Notre Dame (16-1) simply has too many playmakers. The Terps, who have prided themselves on playing great defense for decades, couldn’t match up and had problems with their off-ball defense. Chris Kavanagh finished with five goals to tie a program single-game playoff record and older brother Pat had six assists, which also tied his single-game NCAA Tournament record.

Nine players scored for Notre Dame, many of those coming from its midfield. That, combined with 16 Maryland turnovers, led to the blowout.

“Obviously to me, they’ve been the best team the last two years, and they were the best and most consistent team this year,” Maryland coach John Tillman said. “They proved it, and certainly were the best team today. The way they play, they are really good everywhere. Somebody said they have 11 All-Americans and it felt like that today.

  • Logan McNaney #30 of the Maryland Terrapins walks off the...

    Logan McNaney #30 of the Maryland Terrapins walks off the field after the NCAA Division I Mens Lacrosse Championship game against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish at Lincoln Financial Field on May 27, 2024 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Notre Dame Fighting Irish defeated the Maryland Terrapins 15-5. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

  • Chris Kavanagh #50 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish celebrates...

    Chris Kavanagh #50 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish celebrates his goal along with Pat Kavanagh #51 against the Maryland Terrapins in the first half of the NCAA Division I Mens Lacrosse Championship game at Lincoln Financial Field on May 27, 2024 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

  • Chris Kavanagh #50 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish controls...

    Chris Kavanagh #50 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish controls the ball against Jackson Canfield #50 of the Maryland Terrapins in the first half of the NCAA Division I Mens Lacrosse Championship game at Lincoln Financial Field on May 27, 2024 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

  • Maryland's Daniel Kelly looks on against Notre Dame in the...

    Maryland's Daniel Kelly looks on against Notre Dame in the first half of the NCAA Division I Mens Lacrosse Championship game at Lincoln Financial Field on May 27, 2024 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

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“They are very poised, very unselfish, they have great athleticism and are awesome in the goal. They don’t have any weaknesses. They are worthy of the championship, they were better than us today.”

Maryland needed a strong effort from specialist Luke Wierman, who played well and won 17 of 23 faceoffs. But Notre Dame’s defense, led by Marco Napolitano, Chris Conlin and Shawn Lyght, smothered the Terps. At one point, Maryland went 19:51 in the first half without scoring a goal. Notre Dame led 10-4 at the half.

Even when Wierman won faceoffs, he failed to score three times on fast breaks down the middle of the field, something he had success doing before. He was either cut off quickly or stuffed by goalie Liam Entenmann.

Entenmann left little doubt that he was the best goalie in the country. He finished with 16 saves on 35 shots, some up close, some outside the crease, and some from long range that only he could stop. Once Maryland got behind at the half, especially with their deliberate style of offense, the Terps weren’t going to catch Notre Dame.

“Hats off to Liam,” said Maryland attackman Daniel Kelly, who led the Terps in scoring with a pair of goals. “I don’t think he has a weakness. He is a big kid that takes up a lot of net. But there are some shots we would have liked to have back.”

The question now is how good Notre Dame can be. They could become the first to win three straight national titles since Princeton in 1996, 1997 and 1998 if they get it done next Memorial Day. Syracuse also won three straight titles in 1989, 1989 and 1990 but had to vacate last of those because of alleged recruiting violations.

Only three of Notre Dame’s 10 starters return next season, but the Fighting Irish will still have Lyght, Chris Kavanagh and Faison in the starting lineup. That’s a lot of firepower.

Maryland, however, perhaps has the best coach in the country in Tillman. He has done an excellent job of using the transfer portal in the past, but the Terps still need a dominant attackman in the mold of a Matt Rambo or a Logan Wisnauskas.

The Terps weren’t expected to be in the title game. Most wrote them off after they lost to Johns Hopkins, 7-5, on April 20 and then to Penn State, 19-9, in the Big Ten Conference semifinals.

But this day was about Notre Dame and its dominance in every facet of the game.

“They have the Kavanaghs, they go three midfields deep,” Terps short-stick midfielder Jack McDonald said. “They have some older guys and they capitalized on our mistakes. Their older guys made plays but we put everything we had into this year. At the end, it sucked but we looked at each other and embraced the moment.”

“I wouldn’t trade anyone in that locker room for anyone else,” Kelly said. “Hats off to Notre Dame, but we’ve been through a lot this season. We will be back next year.”

Pat Kavanagh #51 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish celebrates after a goal by Fisher Finley #6 in the second half of the NCAA Division I Mens Lacrosse Championship game against the Maryland Terrapins at Lincoln Financial Field on May 27, 2024 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Notre Dame Fighting Irish defeated the Maryland Terrapins 15-5. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
Notre Dame’s Pat Kavanagh, right, celebrates after a goal by Fisher Finley, 6, in the second half Monday. (Mitchell Leff/Getty)

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