Heading into this weekend, most lacrosse fans had Albany-Notre Dame as their game to watch. What occurred on the field between the Fighting Irish and Great Danes did not disappoint.
In front of a sold out crowd on a beautiful day at Hofstra, Notre Dame defeated Albany 14-13 in overtime after Matt Kavanagh cashed in a goal that beat Albany goalie Blaze Riorden on his left side. The Fighting Irish now head to Baltimore to take on the day's other winner, Maryland, in an all-ACC semifinal matchup next Saturday.
The Thompson Trio put on a patented show for the Great Danes, led by NCAA single season points record holder Lyle Thompson and his three goals and three assists. Miles Thompson added three goals and an assist of his own and Ty Thompson chipped in two tallies. Additionally, Lyle tied the single season assists record and Miles tied the single season goals record.
The game was signified by multiple runs. The Fighting Irish ripped off an early 4-0 push in first quarter. The Great Danes ended the first quarter with three goals of their own to make it a one goal game after the first frame. Each team traded a pair of goals to wrap up the first half, with the Irish heading to the locker room with a 6-5 advantage.
When the second half started, Albany put together what appeared to be a game-defining stretch. With two goals from Lyle Thompson as well buckets from Will Stenberg, Ty Thompson, Matthew Bertrams, and even defenseman Doug Eich, the Great Danes held a 12-7 lead with 11:49 remaining in the fourth quarter. This stretch featured many transition goals that helped the Danes enhance their lead to a margin that looked insurmountable.
The Irish, however, started to answer back. With their 10-man ride in place, Notre Dame limited Albany to only one more goal in the period. The Irish's offense also capitalized on the offensive end, going on a 6-1 run at the end of the final stanza, erasing a five-goal deficit and changing the shape of the game. Westy Hopkins, who came into the game with only six goals on the season, and Sergio Perkovic both added two tallies in this surge. After preventing Albany from scoring on a crucial final possession thanks to an astonishing Conor Kelly save, the Irish forced overtime at 13-up. Liam O'Connor won the opening draw of the extra period, setting up the possession that Notre Dame would use to propel themselves to M&T Bank Stadium (which included Matt Kavanagh making a game-saving play on the end line, corralling a loose ball while horizontal to the ground, continuing the offensive opportunity that the Irish needed to win the game).
Faceoff play ended up factoring in to the final result. In addition to the overtime faceoff win that eventually led to the game winning possession, Liam O'Connor went 21 for 31 at the faceoff dot to provide a clear advantage for the Irish. By limiting Albany's possessions from chances on the whistle, Notre Dame was able to get themselves in a position to win the game.
Notre Dame won the shots count 47-32 and the groundball battle 39-24. Albany was 12 for 16 on clears while Notre Dame was a perfect nine for nine in the category. Conor Kelly had six saves for the Irish while Blaze Riorden had a solid game with 14 stops.
The result creates a third showdown between Notre Dame and Maryland this season. This is the Irish's fourth Final Four appearance, a chance for Notre Dame to win their first national championship. The careers of Miles and Ty Thompson are now complete for the Danes, but Lyle Thompson will aim for Rob Pannell's all-time points record next season in his senior season.