Notre Dame Fighting Irish men’s lacrosse are your 2018 ACC Champions!

After pouncing on Duke in the semifinal on Friday, 14-11, the Irish demolished Virginia in the final yesterday, 17-7.

The Scoring

This was a wild game less than two days after beating the Blue Devils.  We knew that with such short recovery, it would be a bit messy, but the team that stayed more organized and which could summon more effort would prevail.  The stats show the entire team did their part, from top to bottom.

Garnsey, Costabile and Willets each had a hat trick.  Byrne, Wynne and Collins had two goals each, and Phillips and Walter (wearing the #40) added a goal.  Garnsey also added two assists, and Byrne, Costabile, Jackoboice, Phillips and Sexton had an  assist each.

Schmidt was the outstanding goalkeeper of the weekend, and had 8 saves in the win over Virginia.

The ball was on the ground a lot yesterday, but the Irish excelled at scooping ground balls both in number and in consequence:  Sexton with 8, Crance and Wynne with 5, Kielty with 4,  and Garnsey and Cohen with 3.  There was effort across the board.

For the Cavaliers, Michael Kraus again stood out with a hat trick, and Jared Connors was exceptional defensively.

ACC highlights below (which must have been cut by a Virginia fan, as half the video goes by before you can tell the Irish are pummeling the Cavaliers 😉  ).

The Plot

We knew this game would be wild given Virginia’s style and the short rest.  The ball was on the ground a whole lot more that we are accustomed to seeing in any game.  Michael Kraus opened the scoring for Virginia, but the Irish responded with three in a row.  What was notable about these initial possessions was that the Irish attackmen went after every ground ball and missed shot with reckless abandon, extending possessions over and over again.  It was clear from the first moments of the game the effort needed to win was there.

The Irish continued to accumulate goals and went into the half up 9-3.  The half-field defense was nearly impenetrable, and Sexton and company had full control of the middle of the field and exploited all the risks Virginia took trying to push the pace.

There was no 3rd quarter nap on Sunday.  Notre Dame quickly extended the lead to eight goals.  The Cavaliers briefly reduced the lead to six, but as they increased their risk-taking to try to catch up, the Irish took advantage of every mistake and extended the lead until Garnsey scored with a minute left to end the game with an even 10-goal win.

While the offense was impressive, the defense was simply spectacular, both in the even set and in the middle of the field.  Virginia’s efficiency was a lowly 17%, and the Irish tormented them throughout with a dazzling variety of stick checks.

Late in the game, Virginia’s Dox Aitken (who was completely neutered by the Irish), tried to flatten Arden Cohen, but missed and knocked himself and his teammate Michael Kraus out of the game.  Ooops.

It was hard to find much to criticize, but if we had to say anything, it was that Irish were often as sloppy with the ball as Virginia.  However, to put a positive spin on this, Ryder Garnsey emerged as the calming leader that disciplined the team late in the game.  It was impressive to watch as he demanded the ball way up high at midfield when the defense was looking to push the break.  He had excellent game awareness to know denying Virginia any chance to get the ball was the way to win, and he had the presence to get into a position where he could gain control of the situation.


Our Fighting Irish worked through injury, weather and frustration all season, but finally put together a wonderful weekend of lacrosse.  They return to South Bend as ACC Champions!

With these emphatic wins, the landscape for the NCAA changed dramatically.

  • The Irish skyrocket to #2 in the RPI!
  • Notre Dame’s last regular season game next week against Army is likely for the right to host a home game in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
  • Syracuse was driven from ACC regular-season champion to on the bubble for the tournament.
  • The team approaches the tournament with confidence and momentum on both offense and defense.