Watching Denver celebrate an overtime victory in last year’s semifinal win over Notre Dame, Irish fans searched for solace. The Irish had rallied behind an epic, individual performance to force sudden death. A brief moment with the ball and a chance to win was in our possession, then suddenly stolen. In a blink, the ball was transitioned to offense, where the Pioneer’s senior sniper would terminate Irish hopes. Post game celebrations were cancelled. A return to the championship stage cut short. A silver lining….next season.
While a gutty group of seniors would depart, the returning squad was armed with Tewaaraton talent at attack, midfield and defense. An injured scorer would rehab and return, determined to finish one of the program’s most decorated careers. A defensive player of the year would come back to lead others while a midfield hitman would return and evolve. Goaltending talent had depth and upside, while the attack was deepest yet. Midfield would offer the most questions, as the departing class was stout. New talent was athletic and skilled. In time, they would distribute and transition on offense, run and bang on defense. On paper, athletic and accomplished. On the field, time would determine.
As fall arrived, skills quickly surfaced, wearing new numbers, personalities and character. Scrimmages would reveal potential. Then came winter, midterms, workouts in The Gug, box sessions, beep tests, snow, preseason rankings and expectations. A decorated class of seniors was prepared to step forward and capture an elusive crown. For the first time ever, Notre Dame entered February atop the preseason rankings. Would two consecutive trips to The Final Four be followed with a third and a title?
This past Sunday, aspirations to return to Philadelphia and erase that Denver loss were cut short. A North Carolina team who received one of the tournament’s final bids, defeated Notre Dame 13-9 in an NCAA Quarterfinal contest played in Columbus, Ohio. Playing as the #3 seed, Notre Dame surrendered eight consecutive goals while scoring a season low three goals through three quarters.
That 8-0 Carolina run began in the first quarter and ended in the third. While the Tar Heels had defeated the Irish a month ago, they had also yielded 15 goals in that game. Sunday, Carolina held the Irish to three goals on 24 shots (13%), while shooting 35% themselves. Gaining possessions was equally challenging, with Carolina claiming 17/25 faceoffs. Irish goalie Shane Doss made five saves in a third period where he faced 16 shots. Mikey Wynne led the Irish offense, scoring four to finish at 40 for the year. Despite spending nine weeks ranked atop 71 division one programs, the Irish were eliminated. A sudden ending for one of the program’s most successful teams.
With amazing grace and class, the seniors stepped forward and then aside, thanking coaches and encouraging the upcoming class. Their resume included one championship, one semifinal and two NCAA quarterfinal appearances. An Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament Championship, 45 victories, two Tewaaraton finalists, All American and All Conference accolades, a parade of ACC Player of the Week honors, post graduate scholarships and full-time employment at Citi, Deloitte, Jefferies and Credit Suisse to name a few. A class with high expectations, achieved unparalleled results, yet departed disappointed. Perspective over time will position this amazing class as one of ND’s greatest.
As we staked fall tents at Georgetown Prep, Beth and Ed Lubowicki began scheming to lead Parent Nation. Collaborating with Jonathan Rodak, hotels would be contracted, tailgates planned, team snacks ordered, game watches organized, apparel reviewed, rosters laminated, blogs organized and parents introduced. A cold spring arrived and a season of high expectations was underway.
We began with barbecue and a combined seven goals from Mikey Wynne and Sergio Perkovic in a win against #13 Georgetown in Atlanta. Goalie Shane Doss posted 14 saves. Parent Ed Lubowicki led a team effort to support John Michael, a young lacrosse player, recovering from a rare stroke. We moved indoors to Loftus, where Eddy Lubowicki scored four to handle Bellarmine. A wintry storm moved the game indoors. Junior Nick Koshansky was dominant. We stayed inside in defeating Detroit 14-6. Mikey Wynne scored six, while Doss, Landis and a smothering defense held Detroit to two goals. Grace Hall was illuminated with a #1, confirming the team’s national ranking. A Wynne over Maryland was fueled by a physical defense and a four-goal performance by Mikey Wynne in front of a sellout crowd. The victory capped another memorable trip to California. The Crances and Glazeners entertained us, while GW and Mary Mix produced a first-class Pacific Shootout.
Another miracle comeback against Denver fell short in overtime. Four goals in a 43-second span gave us a late lead, but a Pioneer comeback in Arlotta would strip us of our #1 ranking. A return to Arlotta and overtime the following week versus Virginia would provide a better result. Sergio Perkovic would score late to tie and in overtime to win, while Doss turned in another 14-save performance. Alums Regis McDermott and Bob Rogers organized a game watch in New York that drew an overflow crowd. That crew also rallied to encourage Rob Gilmartin, who continues his fight against cancer. A trip to Columbus saw us turn away an edgy Buckeye team in the Horseshoe. Four different scorers complimented a steady defense and a robust midfield performance. The Ollingers visited from California, the Trolleys from Canada and Marlotts from Virginia. The Beatties own Columbus and fed us pre and post game.
Syracuse was next, celebrating 100 years of lacrosse. We ruined their party with a 10-goal victory, the worst Cuse home loss in 29 years. We’ll remember Matt Kavanagh’s nine points , Ryder Garnsey’s five goals, Austin Gaiss’ coast to coast dash for his first goal, the season’s best barbecue and worst early morning snow. A return to Arlotta brought more drama with a come from behind win versus dreaded
Duke in the game’s final minutes. Matt Landis, Garrett Epple and Eddy Glazener limited Duke’s offense to one goal in the final 26 minutes. The game was played in 30-degree temperatures with The Holy Half cancelled due to snow. We moved to 8-1 overall, 3-0 in the ACC. Just three days later, we turned away an upstart Marquette team in overtime. Marquette entered Arlotta 8-1 and ranked #17. Matt Kavanagh scored early in overtime after John Travisano collected his seventh faceoff win, a career-best.
Ranked #1, we traveled to Chapel Hill 9-1 and 3-0 in the Atlantic Coast Conference. A win would secure a second consecutive, undefeated regular conference title. A 6-1 third
quarter run provided a 14-9 advantage going into the fourth quarter. Owning the nation’s best defense, we led by five with 10 minutes remaining. Carolina would score and win the ensuing faceoffs, leading to a 7-0 run. They outshot ND 18-6 and outscored the Irish 8-1 in the fourth en route to a devastating 17-15 loss.
A week later, we led Duke 8-6 after three quarters, only to suffer another fatal fourth quarter and an early departure in the ACC Tournament semifinals. Duke outscored us 3-1 in the fourth to force overtime, where they converted in 40 seconds. Suddenly, we had lost two consecutive games, surrendering fourth quarter leads.
We caught our breath against Army, methodically scoring and defending in the senior’s regular season finale. Garnsey scored four, Doss allowed only three, with the defense focused. We tackled the Linebacker late into the night, one last time. Named the #3 seed in the NCAA Tournament, we hosted another armed forces unit, Air Force. Another five-goal run in the second period ended the Falcon’s 15-game winning streak. Finley and friends won faceoffs, Wynne scored five and the defense was physical en route to a 13-7 win. We advanced to Columbus and the NCAA Tournament Quarterfinals for a program record seventh consecutive year to play North Carolina. The Tar Heels had defeated #6 Marquette in Milwaukee after the home team had a chance to tie in the final minute.
It was a rematch few expected, but we all wanted. Invited to the tournament largely on their 17-15 victory over Notre Dame a month earlier, Carolina had not won a quarterfinal match in the NCAA Tournament since 1993. For the Irish, a revenge win would put them in the Final Four a program-record third consecutive time. For the Irish parents, the commute to Philadelphia would serve as a home game, with 29 of 49 players living in neighboring PA, NJ, MD or NY.
Notre Dame and North Carolina had played 14 games, with each team winning seven. No game had been decided by more than three goals. Four of the past five were decided by one. Two required overtime. With Denver and Duke already eliminated, Sunday’s winner would be favored versus Loyola.
Parents gathered at Claddaugh’s Irish Pub on Saturday evening, stretching their legs and calming their nerves from the rainy commute to Columbus. Sunday’s pre-game at The Varsity, just off campus, got started at 9:00 am. Both events were packed with determined Irish followers.
Under bright sunshine, Carolina scored first, only to see Mikey Wynne tie it, as he had all year. Carolina responded, before Matt Kavanagh tied it with 0:39 remaining in the quarter. As Denver had in last year’s bout, Carolina struck quickly to regain the lead 3-2 just seven seconds later.
The quarter would end with the Tar Heels leading 3-2, playing carefree. They would go on an 8-0 run, shutting out Notre Dame in the second quarter….and into the final two minutes of the third.
ND’s defense had shut down Denver, Duke, Syracuse in similar fashion. Long stretches without a goal. The Irish offense had yet to be shutout for such a stretch all season. Through the first half, statistically, the game was close. But the third quarter was a different matter, as Carolina outshot ND 16-7. Doss was forced to make five saves while Carolina’s Brian Balkam made one. The entire quarter and perhaps the team’s destiny seemed to be captured in the half’s first 15 seconds. Trailing 6-2, the Irish won the faceoff, moved the ball quickly to position Sergio Perkovic square to the net from 10 feet out. Perkovic shot high to low. Balkam not only smothered the shot at his feet, his outlet pass came quickly.
Carolina found space within the Irish defense and scored. The sequence represented a two goal swing, with the fortune of each team portrayed. ND now trailed 7-2. It felt more like Denver than Carolina. The run continued until Mikey Wynne got one back with under two minutes remaining in the third. Again, Carolina got that goal back 42 seconds later to end the third leading 11-3. Culture, tradition and faith required the game to be played out. This team in particular had staged epic comebacks.
The quarterfinal comeback against Albany just two years ago is one for the ages. Comebacks against Carolina have occurred in each of the past two years. Six goals in the fourth quarter, got ND to within 13-9, but left us shy of advancing to Philadelphia. Sadly, I was forced to pass Lincoln Financial Field in Philly, site of the Final Four/Championship Game, en route home. Proudly, we transition a senior class of families from the active roster to the alumni squad. Like the Kemps, McDermotts, Rogers, Pfeifers, Beatties, Brennemans, Marlotts, Hopkins, Soscias, Mixs, O’Haras and Nears, these senior families will stay with us. We’ll see them at a game watch, tailgate, football game, business networking event or a lacrosse game. As ND Board of Directors member Jimmy Dunne told the team prior to the Air Force game, Notre Dame is a special place. The people are exceptional and much is expected. That’s an opportunity to be leveraged, not wasted.
A final thanks to the Norma and Bob Landis and all of those who prepared and joined us in the tailgates. They’re legendary and keep our alums close to the family. A final thanks to Beth and Ed Lubowicki for the tireless efforts in leading Parent Nation. Rob Kelly, John Marchese, Kathy Koshansky and Bobby Arlotta provided wonderful photographs all year. Rob’s retiring after snapping 25,000 shots over the past five years. He and Connor will be missed on the field. Photos make the blog.
Thanks for capturing and posting a season in color. Lastly, my thanks to Tim Brenneman. He created this blog five years ago. It’s evolved with 90,000 hits and generations of Irish nation now following.Parent Nation is already engaged for next season. Looking back over this year, all of us should take great satisfaction in achievements on and off the field. It was historic. Let’s ensure our ambitious goals don’t blind us from our achievements. This was a special class, who exited with amazing composure and class. Toast them and get ready for the fall. The future is now. Go Irish! Highlights of the game can be seen in the link below.