The University of Denver’s Wesley Berg scored with 2:03 remaining in overtime, ending Notre Dame’s season 11-10 in the 2015 NCAA Lacrosse Semifinal at Philadelphia’s Lincoln Financial Field. Down 10-6, with 4:23 remaining, the Irish forced overtime with four consecutive goals, including three by sophomore All American, Sergio Perkovic. Senior Nick Ossello tied the game with 0:09 remaining. This was the fourth battle in the last five between the two schools to be decided in overtime. A season of snow, Loftus, Ivy, Linebacker, tailgates, road trips and friendships ended suddenly, but was unforgettable nonetheless.
The weekend began with the boys landing in Philadelphia on Thursday. Tours, walk throughs and appearances kept them busy through Friday, including a stop at the National Constitution Center. Thursday was highlighted by the announcement of junior Matt Landis being named United States Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association (USILA) Defensive Player of the Year. The junior from Pelham, NY had already been selected first team All-American and Atlantic Coast Conference Player of the Year. Congratulations Matt, Bob and Norma, along with defensive coach Gerry Byrne.
A brilliant but brisk Saturday included the season’s finest tailgate at Lincoln Financial Field. The Philly families – Finley, Sheridan, Kelly, Goins, Marini and Borbi schemed through the week. With Jane Marlatt providing guidance, it all came together. Special thanks to Paul Finley, who provided “The Speaker,” security and access to the Xfinity Sports Bar Complex across the street. Julie Marini coordinated the cheese steak sequel appearance from Tony Lukes. Ed Lubowicki supplied the generator-enabled Leprechaun.
The rematch between the fourth-seeded Pioneers and top-seeded Irish was 20th game between the schools. Denver defeated ND 11-10 in overtime on an equally beautiful March day in Denver. This time, it was the Pioneers who staked an early 2-0 lead, only to have ND tie it on goals by seniors Jim Marlatt and Conor Doyle. Marlatt’s rip was assisted by Ben Pridemore, while Matt Kavanagh provided a no-look pass to Doyle, who finished in tight. The quarter ended with the Irish denying the Pioneers a shot in the final 90 seconds and the game tied at 2-2. Ground balls were even at 10, turnovers even at 2. Twice goalie Shane Doss smothered loose balls in the crease to keep the Irish from a 3-0 deficit.
The second quarter began with Denver in possession. A few Irish turnovers forced goalie Shane Doss to make several saves. Patient and precise, Denver drained the clock, twice triggering the shot clock. That’s when Zack Miller came down the gut to put Denver up 3-2 on a fine individual effort. Back came the Irish, with Ossello winning the ensuing faceoff. It was Ossello who would tie the score less than a minute later. Going to his left, he shot near side. Denver would respond on Connor Cannizzarro’s 56th goal of the season to go back up, 4-3 with 6:51 left in the half. Will Corrigan almost tied hit, when his shot hit the post with a little more than three minutes remaining. Doss made a couple saves to keep it a one goal game, but Denver maintained possession.
With less than a minute remaining, Denver called its second timeout in the previous three minutes. A set play was squashed by the defense, with the half ending. Denver led 4-3, with an 18-14 shot advantage, fueled by a 7-2 faceoff advantage. Denver’s advantage in possession was offset by another stout defensive effort, including seven saves by Doss. Denver’s Ryan LaPlante recorded four saves, all in the first quarter. None in the second.
The third quarter began with Ossello taking another faceoff from Trevor Baptiste, courtesy of a ground ball pick up by Conor Doyle. Mikey Wynne, Will Corrigan, Conor Doyle and Nick Ossello all fired shots at Denver’s LaPlante. It was Corrigan who found the back of the net just two minutes into the half to tie matters at four. Credit Matt Kavanagh with forcing a turnover. It was the fifth consecutive game with a goal for Corrigan, his eighth of the year. The Irish got the possessions and shots in the next two sequences, but it was a sidearm shot from Denver’s Wesley Berg with a little more than seven minutes remaining that put Denver back up 5-4. The Irish were out shooting Denver 25-21 with a 24-19 edge in ground balls.
The offense continued their attack, forcing LaPlante to make six saves on 12 shots in the quarter. On that sixth save, Denver counter attacked, scoring in transition with 0:01 remaining. A two goal swing and a 6-4 Denver lead after three.
The Irish would come out swinging in the fourth, with Ossello battling Batptiste and freshman John Sexton scooping one of his team-high six ground balls on the day. Two shots by Perkovic were diverted and Denver countered. Doss would then be forced to stop Cannizzarro after two Miller shots went wide. Two more Miller shots were blocked, but the second was collected and deposited into the net by Denver and the Pioneers had their biggest lead of the day, 7-4 with less than 10 minutes in regulation.
Ninety seconds later, Sergio Perkovic got the Irish closer on a feed from Eddy Lubowicki. Denver responded with two goals in two minutes and suddenly the Irish were down 9-5 with 5:29 left. Perkovic struck again, only to see Berg score his second of the day to preserve the four goal lead, 10-6 with barely four minutes remaining. A sense of desperation would engulf Lincoln Financial Field, with Perkovic responding a minute later…and again 37 seconds later and again one minute later. The four goal deficit had been cut to one, with The Linc loud, in an Irish frenzy. A five goal performance by Perkovic, four of which came in a span of less than three minutes, had brought the Irish to the brink of tying the game. Ossello and PJ Finley had won a few faceoffs, while Sexton continued to gorge on ground balls. An ND timeout with 0:22 remaining, brought the crowd to its feet. With 0:09 remaining, it was Nick Ossello heading down the gut of the Denver defense, fired low stick side to tie the game at 10! Bedlam in Philly! On to Overtime! Denver would win the faceoff, but a clever Sexton would cause his third turnover and the Irish had the ball. Just as quickly, Denver stole the ball back, transitioning, clearing and calling timeout with 2:29 remaining in the overtime. A sequence of passes led to a quick release shot by Wes Berg. The Tewaraaton Award finalist went high inside the far post and the Notre Dame quest for a championship saw sudden death, 11-10. The Irish would finish the season 12-3, with two of those losses in overtime to eventual champion Denver. With Denver’s win over Maryland in the title game, the Irish have now lost to the eventual champion eight out of the last 10 appearances, including the past four. A season that began in February with 69 teams, had been narrowed to four in May. Much to be proud. A heart-felt thank you to every player, coach, trainer and assistant. Special thanks to Jonathan Rodak, who enables the parents to participate front row. To Bobbie Arlotta, Rob Kelly, Megan Williams, Liza Near and Brian Connolly for their photo contributions. Thank you Tim Brenneman for blog consultation, Jane and Geoff Marlatt for tailgate coordination and John and Liza Near for their leadership of parent nation. A final salute and thanks to the senior parents is forthcoming. Enjoy your summer. Fall lacrosse is around the corner.
Highlights can be accessed via the link below.