AP Photo/ Rob Carr
Led by a stifling defense and remarkable goaltending from senior Scott Rodgers the Notre Dame men's lacrosse team is headed to the NCAA championship game for the first time in school history.
Seventh seeded Cornell was the latest in a slew of upset wins by an unseeded Irish team that was thankful to even qualify for the NCAA tournament. Princeton (sixth seeded) and Maryland (third seeded) were the first powerhouses to succumb to the underdog Irish.
Cornell got on the board first early in the first quarter but that was about all that went well for the Big Red as Rodgers netted eight saves in the remainder of the quarter, allowing his teammates to capture a 3-1 lead.
Over the course of the next three periods the Big Red never came closer than a two goal deficit, ultimately losing 12-7 thanks in large part to Rodgers' 16 saves.
As a reward for their semifinal win the Irish, the first unseeded team since Massachusetts in 2006 to reach the final, will face fifth seeded Duke in Monday's national championship game, which can be seen on ESPN at 3:30p EST. See how both teams got here by following this link.
In the 29 years Notre Dame has assembled varsity men's lacrosse teams the Irish had only once before reached the NCAA Final Four. The 2001 Irish team lost to eventual runner-up Syracuse in the national semifinal. This year's bunch, however, would not be denied.
Kevin Corrigan, Notre Dame's head coach, said he hopes the win will spark more interest outside of the eastern seaboard where the sport has traditionally thrived.
I feel like we've been knocking on this door. I’m excited that we’re in the championship game and I’m really hoping that if we can win a championship game, I can stop getting questions about lacrosse outside traditional areas.
Junior midfielder Zach Brenneman, who tallied three goals in Saturday's match, shared similar sentiments about spreading the sport's following out west.
Now we’re really putting us on the map. I think it’s great for the sport. It’s a growing sport and it’ll help maybe move the sport out West, which is what I think everyone wants.
After limping into and barely qualifying for the NCAA tournament with a 7-6 regular season record the Irish have made the most of their opportunity in post-season play. One last challenge awaits the Irish tomorrow in the offensive juggernaut Duke Blue Devils.
One can only hope for a repeat of the first game of the season, an 11-7 victory in Durham, NC for the Irish. If it means an Irish title, I'd settle for something a little less comfortable and a single goal differential. Regardless, tomorrow's game will result in a first time national champion as the Blue Devils have failed in their two previous attempts in the title game.
The only number one I'd like to see tomorrow is an Irish title and, accordingly, a lighting of the #1 above Grace Hall at Notre Dame.
Go Irish! Beat Blue Devils!