SOUTH BEND, Ind. — The start was everything Towson could have wanted Saturday — a four-goal lead in the first half on the road in the NCAA men's lacrosse tournament at No. 1 seed Notre Dame.
The Tigers defense was suffocating Notre Dame's leading scorer, Matt Kavanagh, and Towson goalie Tyler White was at the top of his game, leading to some nervous energy among the home crowd.
But even though Kavanagh, who came in with 50 points in 12 games this season, failed to record a single point, the Irish depth was too much. Conor Doyle had three goals and two assists for Notre Dame, which used a six-goal run midway through the game to take the lead, and held on for a 12-10 win at Arlotta Stadium.
If Towson coach Shawn Nadelen had known beforehand that Notre Dame's best offensive player would turn in a goose egg, he would have taken those odds.
"I would have thought we would be in pretty good shape," Nadelen said. "But the balance they have with different guys that can score for them... I think we played a lot of defense and that just kind of put us in a hole."
Mike Lynch, Tyler Konen and Greg Cuccinello each netted two goals for Towson (12-6). The Irish (11-2) advance to a quarterfinal matchup with Albany (16-2) next Sunday in Denver.
After falling behind 6-2 in the first half, Notre Dame scored six straight goals to regain the lead five minutes into the third quarter. Towson made one more push, fighting back to an 8-8 tie with 4:31 remaining in the third quarter, but the Irish offense was too much.
"You don't get to play the game you hope to play, you've got to play the one you're in," Notre Dame coach Kevin Corrigan said. "That wasn't the way we hoped to start the game, and that's a lot of credit to Towson. I thought they played very well."
Doyle scored twice to open the second half, and Will Corrigan's second goal of the game with two minutes to go in the third quarter gave the Irish the lead for good.
"We just came up a couple plays short," Cuccinello said. "They were just a little bit fresher down the stretch."
Less than a minute after Notre Dame took the lead back in the third quarter, Towson defender Mike Lowe was whistled for a foul that Nadelen vehemently disagreed with. He threw his hat onto the field and had to be restrained by his assistants on the sideline.
Nadelen said he didn't feel the game was slipping away at that point, but the frustration was mounting, as well as the fatigue of having to come from behind in Wednesday's play-in game at home against High Point.
"That's a pretty fair statement," Nadelen said. "We dug ourselves a hole on Wednesday and had to climb out of it, and that takes a lot of energy out of you."
The Tigers, who entered the day fourth in the NCAA in goals against at just 7.47 per game, used their hallmark defense to build that impressive early lead, but it still wasn't enough against the Irish.
"Being up 6-2, I'm sure people were shocked, including Notre Dame, but I don't think we were shocked," Cuccinello said. "Lacrosse is a game of runs, and the No. 1 team in the country is going to make a run."