Duke won the National Championship yesterday with an 11-9 victory over Notre Dame. Down 8-2 midway through the 3rd period, the Irish staged a furious rally to pull within a single goal twice in the 4th. It wasn’t enough.
Sergio Perkovic scored 5 goals and had a coming out party at the sport’s largest stage. Matt Kavanagh, the object of Duke’s attention throughout, added 2 goals and an assist. Conor Kelly recorded 12 saves in goal.
I’m not breaking new ground by pointing out the team did not play well at the start. They sputtered offensively, recording 11 turnovers and missing on a couple of early scoring opportunities. One wondered as Duke raced onto the field almost immediately after the national anthem if it was a choreographed move designed to show how ready they were for the game. And if it was, it worked.
But if there was a trademark for this year’s Notre Dame team it was their resilience. It was on full display again yesterday. The defense stiffened and began to stifle the Duke attack. The Irish started to own the middle of the field and the offense began to find its mark. By midway into the 4th quarter the team was firing on all cylinders and we had a game. For the second game in a row Notre Dame played 26 players against an opponents 22. Depth started to show late in the game. It was the high-flying Duke attack that slowed the pace. Notre Dame ran out of time but the comeback revealed the heart of a champion.
Congratulations to Duke. Classy program that does it the right way. Recruiting and coaching and culture. For my money there are only two DI college lacrosse programs in the country that have all three. You watched them play yesterday. #1 recruiting classes get magazine covers in September. Culture and coaching get them in May.
The silence at the end of a season is always deafening. The sting of defeat painful. The beauty and the curse of a season ending tournament is that only one team walks away happy. Agonizingly, this year it wasn’t us. Notre Dame is going to get one however – and soon. Each trip lays the brickwork necessary. Remember all those Duke losses a couple year’s ago?
What a season for the Irish. Playing the sport’s most difficult schedule (they finished 1st in strength of schedule), Notre Dame recorded a record of 12-6. ACC Tournament Champions. “Game of the century” win against Albany to gain entry into the Final Four. Perhaps the most complete game of the season in the semi-final domination of Maryland. Facing the prospect of being left out of this year’s NCAA tournament, Notre Dame reeled off 6 consecutive victories. The list of teams the Irish defeated in that stretch is impressive – Maryland, Syracuse, Harvard, Albany and Maryland again.
The guess here is that the sting from yesterday will stay with the parents a bit longer than the boys, who will be meeting up again on Wednesday evening at New York’s JFK airport for their quadrennial trip overseas – this time to Italy. There is no more agreeable place on earth, and 10 days of the most welcoming people and pastoral beauty, will be the best possible salve for wounded pride. And then there is the incredible art and history. Oh, and the food. Mangia!
We had a terrific final four worthy tailgate again yesterday. Many, many thanks to Brian Connolly who arranged for our group to both park and tailgate privately in the parking lot of the Gameday Warehouse. It was a superb locale. Did you see what Brian did yesterday? While the rest of us were socializing and enjoying the fruits of his connections, Brian “took one for the team” and played the part of parking attendant. The man ate dust for three hours while we sipped drinks in the shade of our tent village. We have a lot of great parents but they do not come any better than Brian Connolly. Everyone raise a glass please.
Speaking of raising glasses, lets do it again for Geoff and Jane Marlatt. And to Lee Corrigan for bringing in and setting up our little tailgate village. Said your blogger to Jane, “Geoff always says ‘thank God for Jane’ and now I know why!”. What a tailgate. Geoff never said that to me by the way, (but he needs to!). Thank you to Geoff and Jane. And where would we have been this year without Bob? I stayed to help take down the village last night. Bob was there right beside me.
As always, the tailgates grow as the team advances. The last three, the quarterfinals last week on Long Island, and then the two over this weekend, were spectacular. So many alumni and parent alumni could be seen in Baltimore. Cheryl Kemp. Need I say more? Mike and Laura Jean Podgajny, Mike Ridgway, Mike and Debra Will, Duncan and Laura Swezey, Bob and Barbara Rogers, Marty and Janet Irving, Mark and Betsy Keppeler, Kristy Krebs, Ric and Gretchen Andersen, Jim and Judy Beattie, Phil and Donna Pfeifer, Todd and Michelle Tripuka, Phil Dobson, Bob and Alicia Ashenburg, and on and on. They honor us with their presence. They connect us and our children.
How to describe the state of the current parent group? “Exhausted” comes to mind. In my case, after 15 straight weeks of tailgates and airports, “overweight” as well. Can anyone say elastic wasteband?
The end of the season always brings an odd mixture of relief and loss. The relief of a respite from the grind of constant travel. And the loss of the weekend fellowship of so many wonderful friends. Hugs and shrugs in the parking lot after the game. Too spent for tears. The team joined the after party briefly before many of them headed back to South Bend on the charter.
There will be photos galore in a coming post. Liza Near was ever-present at the tailgate and as always her photos will tell the story better than any words. The 2014 season comes to an end. But there will be more from this blogger in the coming days. I’ve got some things to say before handing over the keys so you aren’t done with me yet.
Your humble blogger continues…