In a year where everything has gone sideways, this seems to make perfect sense:
For the first time since 1975, the final four will not include Hopkins, Syracuse or Virginia.— Patrick Stevens (@D1scourse) May 20, 2012
Notre Dame is off to Gillette Stadium next weekend after its 12-10 victory over defending champion Virginia at PPL Park in Chester, Pennsylvania. It's the first time all season that an opponent has scored double-digits against the Irish this season, but I'm pretty sure that Kevin Corrigan and Gerry Byrne are going to file that fact under "Yeah, Whatever."
The Irish utilized a balanced and emerging offense -- Yes, even I'm surprised that I just wrote that -- to keep pace with a resilient Cavaliers squad that was buoyed, once again (and for the final time), by a Steele Stanwick performance that ended with seven points on two goals and five assists. He remains an all-time horse now sent into semi-lacrosse retirement where he will stud on the professional circuit for hard American currency.
Virginia and Notre Dame traded blows throughout the game, with the scoreboard reading even five times (three times in the second half). Neither team looked as if it were going to roll through the landscape like a Panzer tank on a mission of destruction until Ryan Foley ripped an unassisted blast past Rob Fortunato with 7:41 remaining in regulation. Foley took a nasty shot from Scott McWilliams on the release and needed to be taken off the field on a stretcher, eventually receiving medical attention at an area hospital. (ESPNU indicated that Foley is expected to be fine.)
Foley's tally proved to be the momentum swing in the game. Following the score, the Irish pulled off a three-goal run to push the Irish's lead out to 12-8 with just 1:36 left to play. Virginia rallied late with Matt White and Steele Stanwick helping each other out with buttons to decrease the Cavaliers' deficit to two, but John Kemp stood strong in the net in the waning seconds, turning away a Ryan Tucker shot from the alley to secure Notre Dame's second trip to the Final Four in the last three seasons.
The Irish now have a date with Loyola next Saturday in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Time is to be determined, homeboy.) The two schools haven't met this season -- scaredy cats! -- so this will be new and exciting and maybe a little awkward because, you know, first dates have a lot of pressure and stuff.
Pace: 58 possessions.
Possession Margin: +2 (Virginia)
Unadjusted Notre Dame Offensive Efficiency: 42.86 (!!!)
Saves: 14 -- Notre Dame; 8 -- Virginia
Faceoffs: 13 -- Virginia; 13 -- Notre Dame
Notre Dame Defensive Assist Rate: 30.00