After narrowly making the NCAA tournament on an at large bid the Notre Dame Fighting Irish Men's lacrosse team is headed back to the Final Four for only the second time in school history.
Two consecutive weekends with shocking wins propelled the Irish back to the Final Four, where their only prior visit resulted in a 12-5 loss to runner-up Syracuse.
Host Princeton could not contain Notre Dame and junior midfielder David Earl, who netted 5 of the 8 Irish goals in the 8-5 victory on May 16, 2010.
Less than a week later the Irish suited up against Maryland - a team whom the Irish had never beat (0-4) until the May 22, 2010 matchup in Princeton, NJ.
A hot start put the Irish up 5-1 near the middle of the 2nd period. Maryland closed the gap at 5-3 by intermission. Sophomore attackman Sean Rogers capped off a hat trick with 2:00 remaining in the 3rd period to put the Irish up 7-3. The Terrapins notched two more goals but came up short in a 7-5 loss. Video highlights can be found here. A picture gallery from Sports Illustrated can be found here.
From the start it was certainly helpful for the Irish to get out to an early lead. In fact, the Irish are 7-1 this year when leading in games at intermission. Moreover, Notre Dame senior midfielder Trever Sipperly dominated faceoffs (10 out of 15) to set the tone for ball control and continued pressure on the Terrapins' defense.
Last season the Terrapins handed the undefeated (regular season) Irish a first round exit in the tournament. Revenge was sweet this year especially given the at-large bid. Many critics wondered how a 7-6 Irish team deserved a bid over teams like Drexel (10-4), Georgetown (8-5) and Yale (10-3). Nonetheless, the resilient Irish have proved merit of their bid.
Head Coach Kevin Corrigan recognizes how far his team has come throughout the course of the season. After the defeat of the Terrapins he expressed his pride:
To lose six games after going undefeated last year we were very fortunate to even get to play in the (NCAA) tournament. I'm so proud of our guys because we prepared ourselves to be in the tournament. We prepared ourselves for being in the tournament and whether we got in or not wasn't up to us. Working the last month and getting prepared was up to us. I couldn't be more proud of the way the guys did that.
ESPNU broadcast last weekend's game, but calling the production a 'broadcast' might be a stretch. The production was riddled with "technical difficulties" and graphics that PowerPoint and Atari would put to shame. Imagine what TV was like in the 1970's, add in a splash of public access channel and, for kicks, a dash of high school athletics on personal cam corders.
Next week NCAA lacrosse steps up to the big leagues (we can only hope) as they move to ESPN2. Crash Davis, the shrewd catcher from Bull Durham, said it best when he apathetically stated to an opposing hitter: "Charlie, here comes the deuce and when you speak of me speak well."
Find out if the Luck of the Irish will continue as Cornell and Notre Dame will square off at 4pm EST on May 29 on ESPN2.
For a more in depth recap of the Irish defeat over Maryland check out this link from Lacrosse Magazine.