Mar 4, 2013, 9:19 AM EDT
The second-ranked Irish opened at Arlotta Stadium in sunny South Bend in front of over 1,000 frigid but screaming fans and certainly gave the fans their money’s worth against the ninth ranked UNC Tar Heels with an offensive explosion. The game was extremely hard fought for six periods until freshman attackman Matt Kavanagh finally broke the scoring drought early in the third overtime with a rocket through the legs of goalie Kieran Burke for a 10-9 win as his teammates rushed to greet him in a mobbing celebration on the field.
The Irish are now 3-0, surviving arguably the toughest three-game opening slate in program history with legitimate top ten programs back-to-back-to-back, including two on the road. In Notre Dame’s second straight 10-9 victory, obviously Kavanagh stole the show with the MVP performance of the afternoon. Kavanagh owned the fourth quarter, aiding the Irish in climbing back to an even score at nine from down three with two goals and an assisted pass to fellow attackman and senior captain Sean Rogers. Kavanagh knotted the score up with only 11 seconds left in the game and scored again fifteen seconds into the third overtime and sudden death period. Kavanagh scored an unbelievable four goals in seven shots on goal and recorded six total points.
Rogers was right behind the freshman in terms of star caliber play with an impact performance of two goals and an assist. Midfielder Jim Marlatt was a key factor in the showdown with four ground balls picked up and each an assist and a goal. Goalie John Kemp picked up the win by being a stalwart for most of the final minutes of the contest. He didn’t allow a goal after the 8:29 mark in the fourth and recorded 11 saves overall. Junior midfielder Liam O’Connor did much of the dirty work for the Irish, winning 17 of his 25 face-off attempts and picking up nine ground balls.
A key factor in Notre Dame’s offensive success was that over fifty percent of the team’s shots were on goal (25 of 40). They also closed the scoring gap by controlling possessions late in the game as UNC went zero for five in face-offs in the fourth. The Irish also cashed in on man-up situations. When UNC committed a penalty and sent a player to the box, the Irish took advantage. Notre Dame finished two for three in extra-man opportunities.
The Irish will focus in on tightening up their defensive unit in practice this week after a rough day at the office where talented UNC attackmen Marcus Holman, Joey Sankey, and midfielder Steve Pontrello each netted two goals. Brian Buglione, Matt Miller, and Stephen O’Hara are an experienced trio at the defensive position and will make the necessary adjustments that may be as simple as knowing where your man is at all times and reacting to the opposing team’s quick ball movement in order to make the proper slides. Look for Notre Dame to continue to ride the hot hands of Kavanagh, Marlatt, and Rogers on the offensive side of the field. The boost that Kavanagh has provided this team is an extremely evident reason the Irish are pushing for that top spot in the nation. When the polls come out early this week it is the hope of Irish nation, head coach Kevin Corrigan, and the players on the 2013 lacrosse team to return the #1 sign on the roof tops of Grace Hall.
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