The Cavaliers look to bounce back from their first loss in a Saturday showdown on the road against the top-ranked Fighting Irish
On March 26th, 2022, Virginia defeated Notre Dame 12-8 in Charlottesville in a victory that was more dominant than the final score would suggest. The Irish, at that point in the season, had a 2-4 record with the rest of their ACC slate still ahead of them. After falling to UVA, Notre Dame won its last six games and was the hottest team in college lacrosse besides Maryland entering the NCAA tournament. Shockingly, the Fighting Irish did not make the tournament despite many analysts predicting they could win it all.
Nearly a year later, Notre Dame has still not lost a game since falling to UVA last March. The Fighting Irish picked up right where they left off with a strong 6-0 start, including a 13-12 overtime win at Maryland and a dominant 16-3 win over Ohio State. Notre Dame took over the No. 1 spot in the rankings this week after Virginia fell to Maryland last Saturday.
Now, the two powerhouse programs will meet on Saturday in South Bend for the first of two meetings this season. Given the talent these two teams possess, don't be surprised if there is a third matchup between the Cavaliers and Irish on Championship weekend in May.
Read on for a full preview No. 3 Virginia at No. 1 Notre Dame, including details on the game, an opponent scouting report, and keys to the game.
Who: No. 3 Virginia (6-1, 0-0 ACC) vs. No. 1 Notre Dame (6-0, 0-0 ACC)
When: Saturday, March 25th at 12pm ET
Where: Arlotta Stadium in South Bend, Indiana
How to watch: ESPNU
All-time series: Virginia leads 9-8
Last meeting: Virginia defeated Notre Dame 12-8 on March 26, 2022 in Charlottesville
Opponent Scouting Report: Notre Dame
Notre Dame is the hottest team in college lacrosse and enters this weekend on a 12-game win streak carrying over from last season. The Fighting Irish are the only undefeated team remaining because of their dominance on both sides of the ball, ranking second in goals per game and goals allowed per game. Head coach Kevin Corrigan, the longest-tenured DI men's lacrosse coach, has set this team up to be more than capable of bringing the Fighting Irish their first national championship.
Notre Dame ranks first in scoring margin, winning its six games by an average of 8.67 goals per game, while Virginia is second at 6.71. The only close matchup was an overtime victory at Maryland with the game-winner coming off the stick of Pat Kavanagh, the heart and soul of the Notre Dame offense and a finalist for the Tewaaraton Award in 2021. Kavanagh is known for his creativity on offense that makes him difficult to guard. This season, Kavanagh has ten goals and 24 assists and is complemented by his younger brother Chris who leads the team in goals with 21. The two youngest Kavanagh brothers, whose brother Matt Kavanagh plays in the PLL, have continued the family tradition of playing their collegiate lacrosse at Notre Dame and dominating the competition.
Offensively, the Kavanagh brothers are joined by Eric Dobson and Quinn McCahon, who have combined for 25 goals this season from the midfield. Additionally, Jeffery Ricciardelli slots into the third attack slot alongside the Kavanagh brothers. Midfielders Jack Simmons and Reilly Gray also play a crucial role on offense. If the name Jack Simmons rings a bell, it’s because Simmons transferred to Notre Dame after playing four years at UVA, where he buried nine goals last season. This year, Simmons already has seven goals and two assists and has become a key player in the Notre Dame offense. Brian Tevlin rounds out this offensive group as a leader at the midfield. Tevlin, who transferred from Yale, has proved dangerous on both sides of the ball with five goals this season and seven caused turnovers.
On the defensive end, goalie Liam Entenmann headlines this defensive unit, which averages 8.17 goals allowed per game. Entenmann registered a 60.2 save percentage this season which is good for third in the NCAA. Transfers Chris Fake and Chris Conlin lead the way at close defense while Jose Boyer and Will Donovan headline the LSMs. Conlin, an All-Patriot League selection from Holy Cross, and Fake, an All-American from Yale, have combined for 12 caused turnovers this season. Expect either Fake or Conlin to be guarding Shellenberger.
At the x, Will Lynch leads the way for Notre Dame but is only 47% so far this year. Lynch has struggled at times this season, going 11/30 against Maryland’s Luke Wierman and 2/13 against Michigan last week. Comparatively, Petey LaSalla went 15/30 against Wierman and 14/25 against Michigan. Another potential weakness for Notre Dame is turnovers, as the Irish rank 4th in the NCAA in turnovers this season with 13.67, which could provide extra possessions for the Cavaliers.
Keys to the Game
Offensively, the key as always will be the Kavanagh brothers. If Pat and Chris Kavanagh get rolling early, it’ll be a long day for the Cavaliers. Getting the two of them involved early is crucial to their success. Notre Dame's defense has been much improved this season with the additions of Chris Fake and Chris Conlin, but they have yet to face an offense of Virginia's caliber. This game will certainly be an indicator of the true strength of their defense. Furthermore, it’ll likely be Chris Fake matched up on Connor Shellenberger and a true test of his defensive abilities. Shellenberger was severely limited by Ajax Zappitello in the Maryland game and he will certainly be looking to bounce back.
Play your game.
Virginia looked tentative and nervous in the first quarter against Maryland, which led to dropped passes, missed opportunities, and put the Hoos in a three-goal hole. If the Cavaliers want to have any shot against Notre Dame, they need to have a strong start and play how they’ve frequently played in big games in past years. Many of the players on this team have played in a national championship game, so no moment should be too big.
If UVA wants to have any chance of reclaiming the No. 1 spot it will come down to cleaning up the mistakes from the Maryland game. The first is to execute on man-up. Virginia had a two-man-up advantage and was unable to score, which is inexcusable. Furthermore, the Cavaliers took poor shots early on, allowing Maryland’s goalie Brian Ruppel to gain confidence. Now facing Liam Entenmann, Virginia needs to have a strong start with good and shot selection and not allow Entenmann to get in a groove.
One final key for Virginia will be gaining extra possessions through ground balls, the ten-man ride, and Petey LaSalla dominating at the x. Notre Dame has been sloppy with the ball this season, which is something the Cavaliers can and should take full advantage of.
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