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Photo by Todd Bauders for theACC.com
Fighting Irish will face Syracuse in the ACC Championship Sunday afternoon
CHESTER, Pa. – Matt Kavanagh scored with 6.5 seconds left to send fourth-seeded Notre Dame past top-seeded Maryland, 6-5, Friday night in the second semifinal of the 2014 ACC Men’s Lacrosse Championship.
With time ticking down and Maryland on offense, Notre Dame freshman defender Garrett Epple forced a turnover that was picked up by Jack Near. Near drove the length of the field and found Kavanagh on the doorstep with 6.5 seconds remaining for the game-winning goal.
“When Jack Near is in the open field, no one is going to catch him,” said Kavanagh. “I was kind of close to the midfield line – he almost caught me – so I just sprinted into an open spot.”
The late lead was Notre Dame’s first of the game.
The two teams played less than a week ago to close out the regular season, with Maryland winning the first meeting, 12-8.
“It was just a battle tonight,” said Notre Dame head coach Kevin Corrigan. “It was two teams that really play hard. I’ve got a lot of respect for Maryland – they play hard, they play smart, they’re well coached.
“They’re obviously a very, very good team. That makes it that much sweeter for us, to get a win over a team of that caliber right now, especially six days after we lost to them at home.”
Maryland scored the first three goals of the game, the first coming from Tim Rotanz with 2:10 left in the first quarter. Matt Rambo and Joe LoCascio found the back of the net early in the second quarter to give the Terrapins a 3-0 lead.
Notre Dame’s Westy Hopkins got the Irish on the board with 5:38 left in the first half to send the game to halftime with Maryland leading, 3-1.
Connor Cannizzaro pushed the Maryland lead to 4-1 less than four minutes into the second half. Following the Cannizzaro goal, Notre Dame’s John Scioscia scored from close and Jim Marlatt bounced in a long-range shot to make it a one-goal game at 4-3 through three quarters.
Eddy Lubowicki scored on an extra-man opportunity for the Irish from a sharp angle to tie the game early in the fourth quarter. Maryland took advantage of their own chance with an extra man as Rustin Bryant tallied a goal, his fourth EMO score of the year.
A minute later, Irish junior Conor Doyle tied the game at 5-5 with his 20th score of the season.
Both teams had possessions late in the fourth quarter before Kavanagh’s transition goal to win the game.
“I thought both teams competed really, really hard, and it was a very similar game to last week,” said Maryland head coach John Tillman. “We were fortunate enough to pull away last week, and this week they made one more play at the end there.”
The 11 goals in the game were scored by 11 different players. Only one player – Notre Dame’s Near – had multiple points with two assists.
Maryland’s Charlie Raffa gave the Terrapins the advantage on faceoffs, winning 10-of-13 against two different Irish opponents.
Notre Dame goalkeeper Conor Kelly, playing near his hometown of St. Davids, Pa., made 12 saves – including five in the fourth quarter – in the win.
“It was really nice coming home,” said Kelly. “It was our second time playing at PPL [Park], and it’s always nice to come back to Philly and play in front of the hometown crowd.”
Friday marked the third time in tournament history and the first since 2003 that both semifinals were decided by one goal.
NOTRE DAME QUOTES
Head Coach Kevin Corrigan
“It was just a battle tonight. Wow. It was two teams that really play hard. I’ve got a lot of respect for Maryland – they play hard, they play smart, they’re well coached. They’re obviously a very, very good team. That makes it that much sweeter for us, to get a win over a team of that caliber right now, especially six days after we lost to them at home. I’m really, really proud of our guys and how hard we played. It wasn’t always done artfully. We turned the ball over more than we meant to in a game like that, but they played really hard.”
On the team’s defense:
“We just did a great job. Our defense is based on communication and good decision making. I do think there’s some advantage to us playing a team for the seventh and eighth quarters in the last seven days. I think it gave us a chance to get a little bit better at our communication and decision making against the things they were doing. And we got some big saves.”
On the importance of the game:
“We had our backs to the wall a little bit. I don’t think if we lost this game we’re out of the [NCAA] Tournament, but it sure is a harder road and we’re looking for help from a lot of other people. Now we’re in a position to put ourselves in the tournament with a win on Sunday and not have any questions about it. That’s a soul-searching time for a team, when you’ve struggled to find your wins in the second half of the season, and to come back in that setting against a team that good. I don’t think we even had our A game in terms of having the ball and making some plays offensively, but we just battled so hard.”
On junior goalkeeper Conor Kelly:
“There is nothing more disappointing than what happened to him, but if you were at our practices every day, you would have never seen a second of that. From the moment it happened until eight days ago when I told him he was going to start in the game last week, he did what a good teammate and a good young man does. He worried about getting himself better, he worried about helping his teammate and he prepared himself for the opportunity should it come back his way. That’s all you can ask of somebody in that situation, and I couldn’t be happier and more proud of him for the way he’s handled this from then until now.”
On the team’s depth:
“It’s something we’ve tried to emphasize all year long. I didn’t realize the extent of our depth until they told us we had to put 32 guys eligible for the game tonight. I had a hard time with the last three spots. We’ve played 35 guys over the course of the year – significant minutes, not just mop-up time. That’s a nice thing at this time of year. We’ve had a lot of guys who’ve been out there with the lights on.
Sophomore Attack Matt Kavanagh
On scoring the game-winner:
“When Jack Near is in the open field, no one is going to catch him. I was kind of close to the midfield line – he almost caught me – so I just sprinted into an open spot. I was lucky enough to get the pass from Jack. My guy slid, so I was open on the backside.
Junior Goalkeeper Conor Kelly
On winning the starting spot back and playing at home:
“It was really nice coming home. It was our second time playing at PPL, and it’s always nice to come back to Philly and play in front of the hometown crowd. I’ve just tried to keep my head in it all season. I’ve tried to keep the same approach and keep my mind in it and do everything for my team that I could. When my time came, I tried to make the most of it.”
Head Coach John Tillman
“I want to congratulate Notre Dame, Coach Corrigan, his players and obviously the Notre Dame lacrosse program for winning tonight. They played great, they played really hard and obviously made a great play at the end to win a really tight ball game. I thought both teams competed really, really hard, and it was a very similar game to last week. It was tied late in the game. We were fortunate enough to pull away last week, and this week they made one more play at the end there.
“I’m extremely proud of our guys’ effort. I thought we played with a lot of emotion, I thought we played hard. Sometimes the stats don’t always bear out the result of the game. Our ground balls were great, faceoffs were great, we cleared well. The extra man was good. Unfortunately you’ve got to score more than five goals when you get 37 shots. That’s a credit to their goalie, and I think that’s something we need to work on is obviously our shooting and some of those things. We’ve got to play smarter from beginning to end. I think we will improve. We’re going to get back to work and get better. I have a lot of faith in these guys and the leadership of this group to make sure we’re ready to play eight days from now.”
On Maryland getting a timer on late in the game:
“You come out of the timeout and all we can do is look at the way the game is being played. If that’s the way the game’s going to be played, you expect it to be consistent, and that was our mindset coming out of it. We felt like that’s the way it’s been most of the year, if that’s the precedent that’s been set, you just assume it’s going to be the same. We’ve had some lengthy possessions before and we just assumed it’d be the same. All that said, you just can’t give up a goal there.”
On what was at stake in the game:
“You can’t go too far without reading an article about the game. Their backs were against the wall, and you need a winning record to go to the NCAA Tournament. I think we have to focus on us, but having been through that situation with an opponent a couple weeks ago, it was obviously a situation where they needed to get a win. We tried to remind our players, this is the type of effort and intensity that you’re going to get, and we need to match that. I thought our guys did that. Honestly, I thought they played hard last week and I thought that was a tight game, and I thought this was a tight game. Having played so recently, I thought both teams had a beat on personnel. Both goalies played great. Because of the weather, both teams got a little sloppy. There were a lot of turnovers, so it was going to be a grind-it-out game.”
Senior Defender Michael Ehrhardt
On the conditions:
“We were pretty used to it. We already played a game like that against Virginia. It wasn’t too bad and I’m glad we already had the experience of playing through that. You’ve got to show up and play any game in any situation, whatever the weather is. You’ve just got to go out and play your game and you can’t let it affect you.”
Senior Goalkeeper Niko Amato
On Maryland’s defense:
“Our defense played a great game. There’s obviously room for improvement, but we communicated well and executed our game plan.”