Previewing No. 2 Virginia vs. No. 3 Notre Dame in NCAA Lacrosse Semifinals
By Aidan Baller,2023-05-26
Two more wins are all Virginia needs to secure its 8th National Championship, third under Coach Lars Tiffany. But those two wins will be the toughest of the season to achieve. First, the Cavaliers must defeat Notre Dame for the third time this season. The Fighting Irish are highly motivated and have yet to lose to anyone else this season. If the Wahoos win, they will either have to defeat No. 1 Duke, who they have fallen to twice this season, or No. 5 Penn State, the regular season champions of the Big Ten.
Read on for a full preview of No. 2 Virginia against No. 3 Notre Dame, including details on the game, an opponent scouting report, and keys to the game.
Who: No. 2 Virginia (13-3, 4-2 ACC) vs. No. 3 Notre Dame (12-2, 4-2 ACC)
When: Saturday, March 27th at 2:30pm ET
Where: Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
How to watch: ESPN2
All-time series: Virginia leads 11-8
Last meeting: Virginia defeated Notre Dame 12-8 on April 30th, 2023 in Charlottesville
Opponent Scouting Report: Notre Dame
After getting snubbed from the NCAA Tournament last season, the Fighting Irish have been on a revenge tour all season long with their sights set on playing on Memorial Day. Notre Dame defeated Utah 20-7 in the first round and Johns Hopkins 12-9 in the quarterfinals to advance to Championship Weekend for the first time since 2015. In the regular season, Notre Dame’s marquee wins were against Duke, Michigan, and Maryland. Against Virginia, the Fighting Irish lost 15-10 in March and 12-8 at the end of April.
So far this season, the Cavaliers have had the Fighting Irish’s number, but it is quite difficult to defeat a team three times in one season. Notre Dame is led by Tewaaraton finalist Pat Kavanagh and his brother Chris Kavanagh. The brothers aim to bring the Fighting Irish their first-ever National Championship.
In the past, the brothers have struggled against Virginia elite close defender tandem of Cole Kastner and Cade Saustad, who they will face off against again this Saturday. Joining the brothers on attack is Jake Taylor, who had three goals last time out and has stepped up recently for the Fighting Irish. Taylor, entering Saturday, has had nine straight multi-goal games.
The attack unit of the two Kavanaghs and Taylor is one of the fiercest riding units in the NCAA and has been disruptive all year. The goals created by these turnovers are momentum-changing plays that can turn the tide of a game.
Former Cavalier Jack Simmons is also peaking at the right time. In the quarterfinals, Simmons matched his season high in points, finishing with three goals and an assist. Besides Simmons, Eric Dodson has been imposing from the midfield all year, boasting one of the hardest shots in the country while also improving as a dodger and as a feeder.
Defensively, Liam Entenmann is capable of winning any game in the net. The ACC Defensive Player of the Year made ten saves last week against Johns Hopkins. Virginia has had success against Entenmann this season, but if Entenmann performs well, it may be difficult for the Cavaliers to overcome the Fighting Irish for a third time this season. Chris Fake and Chris Conlin join Entenmann on defense. The defense limited the high-powered Blue Jays offense to only 19 shots on target, a season-low.
The lone weak spot for Notre Dame is its faceoff unit led by Will Lynch. Lynch went 8/19 against Hopkins last week and is 11/29 against Virginia’s Petey LaSalla this season. This disadvantage could cost the Fighting Irish, allowing the Cavaliers to put together scoring runs if the offense is firing on all cylinders.
Keys to the Game
Seize the moment. Many players on the UVA roster have been to Championship Weekend and understand the pressure that comes with it. If the Cavaliers can start strong and create an early lead, their explosive offense may be too much for Notre Dame to catch up to.
Another key to the game for Virginia is Mr. May, Connor Shellenberger. Last time out against Georgetown, Shellenberger had six goals and four assists. If Shellenberger is playing his best lacrosse, it’ll be almost impossible to contain the high-powered Virginia offense.
The final key for Virginia is Cade Saustad and Cole Kastner guarding the Kavanagh brothers. If Saustad and Kastner can use their size and length to limit the brothers, similar to the first two games, Virginia will be able to knock off the Fighting Irish for the third time this season. Additionally, Matthew Nunes, who is making his first appearance in the Final Four, needs to make some big saves when the lights are at their brightest and be confident when clearing the ball.
If the Fighting Irish want any chance of playing for their first National Championship, they will need the Kavanagh brothers to win their matchups offensively. Additionally, the two need to be disruptive on the ride and force Virginia to make costly errors. These extra possessions for the Fighting Irish could be crucial.
Defensively if Liam Entenmann can get in a groove early and keep the game low scoring, it’ll be anyone’s game if it’s close in the fourth quarter.
No. 2 seed Virginia (13-3) will take on No. 3 seed Notre Dame (12-2) in the semifinals of the NCAA Men's Lacrosse Championship on Saturday, May 27th at approximately 2:30pm at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. UVA and Notre Dame will play in the second semifinal about 30 minutes after the conclusion of the first semifinal game between No. 1 Duke and No. 5 Penn State, which will start at 12pm. Both semifinal games will be televised on ESPN2.
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