The Team That Got It Done: Notre Dame Downs Duke for NCAA Title


Chris Kavanagh (50) celebrates with his brother, Pat, after Notre Dame's 13-9 win over Duke in the NCAA championship game Monday at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia.

PHILADELPHIA — Notre Dame got what it came for this year — and this postseason.

The third-seeded Fighting Irish claimed its first men’s lacrosse national title Monday, pouring onto the field after wrapping up a 13-9 defeat of top-seeded Duke before 30,462 at Lincoln Financial Field.

Liam Entenmann — a self-described Notre Dame fan his entire life — made 18 saves to earn most outstanding player honors as the Irish (14-2) won its first title in its 26th tournament appearance.

The Irish had lost title games in 2010 and 2014 (both to Duke) before Monday’s breakthrough.

“Being a Notre Dame fan came a lot of heartbreak — 2010, 2014, 2015 [in the semifinals],” Entenmann said. “To be able to be the team to do it is an honor. Just looking up in the stands today and seeing [former Irish star] Matt Kavanagh, seeing so many guys that helped build this program up to what it is and were just shy of winning it all, just to see them with tears in their eyes and huge smiles on their faces was truly one of the best moments of my life.”

Chris Kavanagh and Jake Taylor both had two goals and an assist for the opportunistic Irish, who withstood a six-goal burst in the third quarter from the Blue Devils (16-3) and eventually pulled away in the final 16 minutes.

“Defensively, they’re very good. They’re very disciplined,” Duke coach John Danowski said. “We’re not a very dynamic two-handed team, so if you have a good scouting report and you overplay guys’ hands — they did a nice job that way, too. Give the goalie some credit, but a lot of times a goalie deserves credit when his defense plays well in front of him, and I thought it was a combination of both.”

A back-and-forth between Tewaaraton Award finalists never materialized. Much like the teams’ regular-season matchup, Brennan O’Neill struggled to generate quality looks against Notre Dame defenseman Chris Fake. O’Neill finished with a goal and an assist on nine shots.

Meanwhile, Notre Dame attackman Pat Kavanagh was clearly hobbled by injury and was largely a decoy — albeit one who kept Kenny Brower, Duke’s first-team All-America defenseman, occupied much of the afternoon.

Kavanagh took only one shot, but his lone point was a slick feed to Brian Tevlin on what gave the Irish the lead for good with 27.3 seconds to go in the third quarter.

Moments later, Chris Kavanagh wrestled his way inside his defender and scored while diving across the crease with 0.6 seconds left in the period to make it 9-7.

Entenmann made seven saves in the fourth quarter, perhaps none more significant than a stop on Charlie Balsamo during a Duke man-up opportunity with 6:28 to go. A little more than a minute later, Jack Simmons fired in a shot to put Notre Dame up 11-8, and Duke never threatened again.

“In the first half, I saw a lot of shots from the perimeter, which are generally speaking shots I like to see,” Entenmann said. “Obviously they have some great shooters like O’Neill and [Garrett] Leadmon and some other ones, but the more time I have to react, the better. That’s what our defense did a great job of.”

Entenmann became the third goalie in the last four tournaments to earn most outstanding player honors, joining Virginia’s Alex Rode (2019) and Maryland’s Logan McNaney (2022). He is also the second Notre Dame player to win the honor, joining goalie Scott Rodgers (2010).

Tevlin, Chris Kavanagh, midfielder Eric Dobson and defenseman Chris Fake joined Entenmann as Notre Dame’s representatives on the all-tournament team. But the title was earned in fitting fashion for the Irish, who had six players post multi-goal games in the final.

The work of faceoff man Will Lynch, who came into the tournament winning 46.2 percent of his draws, also should not be overlooked. The sophomore jumped to 60.8 percent (48 of 79) in the postseason, including a 12 of 19 showing Monday against Jake Naso, Duke’s first-team All-American faceoff man.

“To win a national championship and to be successful in May, you need secondary guys to step up and that’s exactly what happened,” Pat Kavanagh said. “We have so much depth and so much confidence in everyone on our team.”

What the Irish had early was a keen sense for exploiting fast-developing opportunities. Twice in the first half, Notre Dame scored off a ground ball in front of the crease, and Quinn McCahon scored from just beyond midfield against Duke’s 10-man ride.

That accounted for half of the Irish’s goals as they took a 6-1 lead into the break. Duke was the fifth team in tournament history to score just one goal in the first half of a title game and the first since Cornell in 1988.

The second half unfolded differently after what Danowski described as a “talking-to” at the break.

“It was somewhat direct, somewhat challenging their character a little bit,” Danowski said. “It was typical coach stuff.”

After missing its last 23 shots of the first half, Duke collected four goals in less than six minutes to make it a game.

“We braced for it,” Entenmann said. “We knew it was going to happen at some point. It just happened to happen when we came out of the tunnel for the second half. But we were ready for it and we knew we had to regroup as a unit and move forward, and I thought we did a really good job of that.”

Duke finally tied it for the first time since the middle of the first quarter on Balsamo’s unassisted goal with 1:01 to go in the third. But the Irish scored twice in the next minute, then never lost the lead again.

“I’m incredibly proud of our guys for fighting back and cutting that lead down,” Brower said. “When it’s 6-1, it’s pretty tough against a great team like Notre Dame to get back there. They just made a play when they needed to.”

For the Irish, it was the culmination of both a long-term build and a steely approach to this year. Notre Dame has missed only seven NCAA tournaments since 1990, winning its first postseason game in 1995, breaking through to the semifinals in 2001 and then making a title game trip in 2010.

This was probably the Irish's most potent mix of both ability and incentive, the latter derived in part from the tournament opportunity denied to the Irish when it was surprisingly excluded from last year’s NCAA tournament. Notre Dame won its last six games in 2022, then rolled through everyone not named Virginia in this year’s regular season.

After clobbering Utah and smothering Johns Hopkins the first two weekends of the tournament, the Irish took the third and most meaningful meeting with Virginia on Tevlin’s winner in overtime in Saturday’s semifinals.

Then came Monday, when Notre Dame played from ahead almost the entire game against a team it defeated four times in the last two seasons.

“All 57 guys who made a commitment to being their best and being held accountable by the leaders on this team all year, everyone was bought in, top to bottom,” Pat Kavanagh said. “It’s just a special group. It’s the most tight-knit locker room I’ve been a part of. Our culture is pretty special, but this year was just different from when we stepped on campus in August.”

And now, it’s really different: It has delivered the Irish their first Memorial Day triumph.


Most Recent

Metzbower Brings Offensive Brainpower, Recruiting Prowess to Denver

Two of the game's brightest tacticians, Matt Brown and David Metzbower now share offices.

Inside Lacrosse No. 1 Recruit Alexa Spallina Commits to Syracuse

Spallina will join her three brothers at Syracuse when she steps foot on campus.

Division I Men's Impact Transfers for 2024

The transfer portal has left its mark on lacrosse after the COVID shutdown of 2020.

Division I Women's Impact Transfers for 2024

The transfer portal has left its mark on lacrosse after the COVID shutdown of 2020.

Twitter Posts

Get the best and latest from delivered weekly straight to your inbox: