Third time’s the charm as Notre Dame tops Duke, 13-9, to win first NCAA lacrosse title at the Linc

Tribune Content Agency

Winding up from behind midfield, former Malvern Prep star Quinn McCahon let loose a shot that caught both Duke’s goalie and all of the fans at Lincoln Financial Field off guard. When the ball bounced into the goal, McCahon gave Notre Dame a five-goal lead at halftime of the NCAA lacrosse championship on Monday.

Then McCahon scored in the final four minutes to give Notre Dame its second five-goal lead on the way to its first national title, a 13-9 win over Duke.

Notre Dame had been here before, fighting Duke for the NCAA crown. But the 2010 and 2014 games both ended in Duke’s favor. Luck finally turned toward the Fighting Irish in their third championship matchup, once again against Duke.

“You know, I wasn’t disappointed that Duke was the last one standing with us,” Notre Dame coach Kevin Corrigan said. “This was a matchup we felt familiar with.”

Garrett Leadmon, who scored Duke’s controversial overtime goal against Penn State in the semifinals, began the scoring, but he was the only Blue Devil to find the back of the net in the first half. While Duke’s top scorers, Brennan O’Neill and Dyson Williams, had many attempts, they either missed the net, had bad position or had their shots broken up. Meanwhile, six players scored for Notre Dame as the Fighting Irish took a 6-1 lead.

Duke scored three quick goals after halftime, which Notre Dame expected.

“I told the guys, look, they’re going to come back,” Corrigan said. “That’s a proud program that I knew had a lot of lacrosse left in them.”

But the Irish grasped a bit of momentum at the end of the third, pulling ahead by two heading into the fourth. It was enough to get them rolling, and they reopened their five-goal lead. In addition to McCahon, Chris Kavanagh, Eric Dobson, Jake Taylor, Jeffery Ricciardelli, and Brian Tevlin scored two goals apiece for the winners.

Chris and Pat Kavanagh’s brother Matt was on the last Notre Dame team to make it to the final in 2014. Getting to take a family photo as national champions was a surreal moment.

“It’s been over a decade in the making,” Pat said.

History and heroics

While McCahon’s goal gave the Fighting Irish a sizable lead over the Blue Devils heading into halftime, goalie Liam Entenmann made it stand up against a team that scored six in the first quarter alone in the semifinals. Entenmann made eight saves on nine shots in the first half, his .889 save percentage far above his season average of .562. He finished with 18 saves on 27 shots, a save percentage of .667.

In front of a crowd heavily favoring the Fighting Irish, Notre Dame held Duke to the fewest number of goals in the first half of a title game since 1988.

After Duke erased the lead soon after the start of the second half, the Kavanagh brothers stepped up to put Notre Dame back on top at the end of the third quarter. Right after Pat Kavanagh paced the field, shaking off a sore leg, he turned around to set up Tevlin’s goal. Less than 30 seconds later, Chris Kavanagh scored as the clock expired. Jack Simmons kept the Irish rolling in the fourth, setting up a goal, scoring one himself, and then assisting on another.

On Duke’s side, Leadmon scored two goals and added an assist, but he was the only multi-goal scorer for the Blue Devils.

The perfect spot

Philadelphia is optimally located for Duke fans Stephanie and Kayla Wilson. While their son and brother (respectively), Jake, attends the North Carolina school, they hail from Shoreham Wading River, N.Y., and had to drive only a few hours to watch him play. Georgette and Hannah Kershis, whose son and brother (respectively), Liam, is committed to Duke, accompanied them.

Philadelphia and South Jersey have their own strong lacrosse communities, situated in the middle of the biggest lacrosse hubs in America. Thirty-five of Duke’s players and 34 of Notre Dame’s hail from towns and cities stretching across the East Coast from Virginia to Massachusetts, including six from the Philadelphia region.

Notre Dame alumnus Brian Tatlow settled in Malvern after graduation. He had previously watched Notre Dame play in two previous championships in Baltimore. With the game in Philadelphia, it was easy for him to go see if the third time would be the charm.

Fans and families of the two teams showed up, but the seats in between were filled with fans of the game. Lacrosse clubs from all over made the trip to enjoy a weekend of lacrosse in South Philly.

Kyle Kappmeier and his son Ryan, who plays for 2 Knights lacrosse club, are from New Jersey and try to make it to all the big local lacrosse events. While they enjoy attending the Premier Lacrosse League games at Subaru Park, getting to see lacrosse held at a stage as big as Lincoln Financial Field was exciting.

“It’s massive,” Kappmeier said. “The fact that you’ve got a bunch of college kids that are drawing this type of a crowd, this is going to be massive [for the sport]. This is like a crowd you would see for a concert.”

The championship game drew 30,462 fans. Across the three games of the Final Four, the attendance total was 78,094.

The Notre Dame lacrosse team decided to stick around for the next two days before it heads to Germany for an international tour. The Irish so thoroughly enjoyed the experience, they decided to throw together a clinic for local lacrosse players.

“We set [it] up as a way to thank the Philadelphia lacrosse community for supporting the Final Four,” Corrigan said.