Notre Dame Fighting Irish lacrosse lost to the Denver Pioneers, 7-9, this Sunday at Arlotta Stadium.  So ends their 2018 campaign.

We’ll review the season and celebrate the seniors next week, but for now, here is the game recap:

The Scoring.

Ryder Garnsey scored the first four goals for Notre Dame, all of them incredible.  A potential fifth, which would have been the greatest of them all, was waived off for a supposed crease violation (which is still not apparent after watching the replay 5x).  Costabile added two and Wynne one.  Byrne, Jackoboice, Phillips and Willets had an assist each.

John Sexton, in his final game for the Irish, had 5 ground balls and 2 caused turnovers which showed off his incredible skill set (we think the scorekeeper was a little stingy when comparing box score to our own in-game running total).  John Travisano did a good job holding off Trevor Baptiste, winning 5 of his 16 draws.

Notre Dame did well limiting themselves to 9 turnovers to Denver’s 15, and did well with ground balls in the field (excluding faceoffs and goalies), 22-13.  The Irish were 2-4 on the extra man, and held Denver scoreless when man-down.

The duo of Walker and French led Denver with three goals each.  Denver had the edge in possessions, 35-30.

The Plot.

This game was a real kick in the crotch.  Denver came with the exact gameplan everyone expected, and our boys executed the general plan we hoped for.  Credit to Denver for executing their plan a little bit better.  The bummer in a rivalry like this that is played so frequently is that we know exactly what needs to happen, but the team is frustrated with a loss even when they execute 95% of the gameplan.  The margins in this rivalry are that close.

Denver went ahead early behind Walker and French, whom we expected would be the focus of their attack.  The Irish offense struggled a bit to get in gear, but Ryder Garnsey singled-handedly kept them in the game with a first-half hat trick.  Notre Dame came out with great energy in the second half and crept ahead 7-6.  Unfortunately, Denver quickly came back with two for a lead they never relinquished as they simply took the air out of the ball with a long fourth quarter game of keep-away.

The defense held Denver to a respectable total.  There was a fast break, a few loose situations near the crease, and perhaps an opportunity for a save or two that may leave Notre Dame feeling they could have kept the total a goal or two lower, but overall they had a good game.  Likewise, there is no shame in Travisano going 30% against Baptiste.

On offense, they were not as crisp as they were the last three games, but some credit is due to the Denver defensive midfield not giving Costabile and Gleason very much space (Gleason left for a while in the middle of the game with an apparent wrist injury).  However, Garnsey kept the team in the game, and early in the second half things really clicked for a while.  Unfortunately, once Denver regained the lead, they rarely gave the Irish the opportunity to handle the ball and so the game went.

While the turnover total was quite low, many of them occurred at particularly impactful times, such as right after the defense caused a turnover to end a long possession.  These allowed Denver to completely control the pace (they finished with 60% time of possession!).  Similarly, while the Irish were 2 of 4 man up,  the two that they missed were a 2-man up opportunity in the second half and a penalty late in the game, either of which could have changed the outcome but were instead deflating losses of possession.  These few plays were the difference in the game.


The Irish had their chances to win this game, but aspects of this traditional matchup happen often enough that we can’t help but be frustrated.  Their can’t be one application of the rules for Coach Tierney and another for everyone else.  The lack of shot clock pressure on Denver in the second half became ridiculous. We are not supporters of an MLL-style shot clock, but when we went back and reviewed the application of the rule in games like Notre Dame vs Maryland and compared it to this fiasco, the differences were striking, as they have been for nearly every Western Rivalry game of the past five years or so.  Sure, the Irish should have taken care of their own business, but the application of the rule soured the experience.

The Irish lost because they got off to a slow start and came up short in a few critical situations in the second half.  That’s lacrosse.  However, what stinks is that their margin of error was reduced to zero, not by Denver, but by the officiating.  We’ll say nothing more.


We really enjoyed this team and the senior leadership, and we hated to see them go out like this.  However, we also know that these seniors have tremendous career opportunities ahead of them.  We’ll write a last article this season celebrating them like we always do.

It was our privilege to follow this team this season, and we eagerly look forward to 2019 and their next championship run.

We’ll end with Will Young on the bagpipes one last time.