In coach John Tillman's four-year tenure, the Maryland men's lacrosse team had twice reached the national semifinals, and each time it moved on to the title game.
A third such trip did not materialize Saturday as sophomore attackman Matt Kavanagh recorded a game-high seven points on five goals and two assists to propel sixth-seeded Notre Dame to an 11-6 victory over the seventh-seeded Terps in an NCAA tournament semifinal before an announced 30,428 at M&T Bank Stadium.
The Fighting Irish (12-5) will make their second appearance in the championship game in five years. They will meet top-seeded and reigning national champion Duke (16-3) in the final on Monday at 1 p.m. in a rematch of the 2010 title game, in which the Blue Devils long-stick midfielder C.J. Costabile opened overtime with a faceoff win and a goal in a 6-5 decision.
Duke ended fifth-seeded Denver's 13-game winning streak with a 15-12 win in the first semifinal.
Maryland fell to 13-4, and the program's NCAA title drought since 1975 reached its 39th year.
“I felt like they outplayed us in almost every facet,” Maryland coach John Tillman said of Notre Dame. “Certainly, I need to do a better job of getting our guys prepared and getting them organized. But I thought they played well. At times, I thought we played well, but not consistently enough.”
Kavanagh, who was named a second-team All-American on Thursday, posted two goals and one assist each in the first and second quarters while being hawked by Terps junior defenseman Goran Murray, who was selected to the All-America first team.
Kavanagh, who now has 40 goals and 32 assists, tied Mike Sullivan's program record for assists, set in 1990, and is two points shy of Randy Colley's single-season mark, established in 1995.
“I wasn't really doing anything from a game-to-game standpoint, but the sets that we ran this week in practice, I think we executed them perfectly,” said Kavanagh, who had eight goals and six assists in three games against Maryland this season. “We only had a handful of possessions where they resulted in turnovers. I was just on the better end of great team offense.”
With a 6-4 lead at halftime, the Fighting Irish put the contest away in the third quarter. With 12:19 remaining, junior faceoff specialist Nick Ossello tucked a shot inside the right post from 12 yards. With 7:56 left, Kavanagh one-timed a pass from junior attackman Conor Doyle (Gilman) into a net vacated by Maryland senior goalkeeper Niko Amato, who had attempted to pounce on a ground ball that rolled behind the cage.
Sophomore midfielder Henry West stemmed the bleeding briefly for the Terps when he converted a pass from senior attackman Mike Chanenchuk 42 seconds after Kavanagh's goal.
But Kavanagh scored his second of the period with a curl around the left post with 4:52 remaining and then fed senior midfielder Pat Cotter alone on the doorstep with 2:03 left.
Eight of Notre Dame's 11 goals were assisted, with Doyle leading the way with three helpers. Coach Kevin Corrigan said the offensive display — the team's fifth straight contest with at least 11 goals — was a result of the unit's ability to execute during its six-on-six possessions.
“Offensively, I really feel like we're getting really close,” he said. “We're finding a lot of different ways to score, but our six-on-six is getting better and that's really important as well. We did some really good things offensively today.”
Kavanagh had a hand in the team's first three goals, scoring twice and assisting on senior attackman John Scioscia's tally. Nick Ossello tacked on a goal with 9.5 seconds left in the first quarter to give the Fighting Irish a 4-2 lead after Maryland junior Charlie Raffa was cited for a violation.
Notre Dame got goals from Doyle (one goal and three assists) and Kavanagh to pad its lead to 6-2 within the first six minutes of the second quarter. The Terps returned the favor with two goals of their own to end the period.
Junior midfielder Joe LoCascio sprinted down the right alley and sidearmed the ball past Fighting Irish junior goalie Conor Kelly with 8:34 remaining. With 1:39 left, Kelly stopped a drive by Chanenchuk from the left alley, but junior attackman Jay Carlson (St. Paul's) snatched the rebound out of midair and dumped the ball over Kelly.
LoCascio led Maryland with two goals, but Chanenchuk – who blistered Bryant for five goals and four assists in a quarterfinal May 17 – scored just one goal on six shots and added a lone assist, thanks to the defensive work of senior Stephen O'Hara.
Chanenchuk was not the only starting attackman to have a quiet outing. Freshman Matt Rambo was blanked by freshman defenseman Garrett Epple (Calvert Hall), and freshman Connor Cannizzaro finished with just one goal against sophomore defenseman Matt Landis.
The Terps failed to convert two extra-man opportunities and committed a game- and season-worst 19 turnovers.
The Terps also could not solve Kelly. Kelly used his stick to stone Carlson from the slot 74 seconds into the second quarter, and the Fighting Irish promptly turned that into a goal by Doyle, who converted a skip pass from senior short-stick defensive midfielder Tyler Brenneman with 13:28 left in the period.
Then, with Notre Dame junior long-stick midfielder Henry Williams serving a 30-second penalty for holding with 1:08 remaining, Kelly thwarted Cannizzaro standing alone on the left side of the crease.
Notes: The announced crowd was more than the 28,444 who watched the semifinals at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia last May, but it was still the lowest attendance in Baltimore and second-lowest since the Final Four was moved to NFL stadiums for the 2003 season. … Saturday was not a good day for the Cannizzaro family. In addition to Connor Cannizzaro and Maryland losing, his older brother Sean, a junior midfielder for Denver, finished without a point in the Pioneers' setback to Duke.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun