May 11, 2015
It started off looking like a Towson possession off the face-off, with the Tigers already owning a 6-2 lead over No. 1 seed Notre Dame and owning a mountain of momentum in the first round of the NCAA Men's Lacrosse Championship.
It ended up being a lightning bolt that ignited a furious run to help the University of Notre Dame advance to quarterfinal action in Denver.
After a bruising face-off that seemed to go Towson's way, the ball popped out and landed about 10 yards from midfield.
Notre Dame's Nick Ossello charged out of the face-off fray, scooped up the ball and charged toward the Towson goal. Lunging to fire off a shot, Ossello connected just before he smacked into the turf.
Ossello's goal cut the Towson lead to 6-3 with 2:43 left in the first half and woke up the echoes. The Irish went on to score two more goals in a span of 2:04 to close to 6-5 at halftime and then the Irish scored eight seconds into the second half on a bullet by Conor Doyle to knot the score at 6-6.
By the time Towson managed to put the brakes on the Irish run, Notre Dame had outscored the Tigers 10-2 and owned a commanding 12-8 lead.
Next up for the Irish (11-2) is a match in the Denver quarterfinal against Albany (16-2) set for 3 p.m. ET on Saturday. Albany advanced with a 19-10 victory against eighth-seeded Cornell in another first-round skirmish Saturday.
"What we were talking about before the game was that Coach (Kevin Corrigan) was kind of going to let us loose," Ossello said of the way the Irish took charge. "What we took from that was, while we might not have gotten off to the best start, he's going to put it in our hands and let us make the plays. Fortunately, I had the opportunity to make a play and then the team kind of took care of the rest.
"Once we have that initial momentum swing, I think we're the best team in the country at taking that momentum and converting it into a lot of goals at a very fast pace. We've had a couple of games where we've been able to have a rapid-fire attack. It's a testament to how well we can play off momentum swings. I think that's really going to help us in the rest of the playoffs."
Towson's defense targeted two of Notre Dame's top scorers--Matt Kavanagh and Mikey Wynne--so eight other different Fighting Irish players stepped up to supply firepower. Doyle pull off the hat trick, while Ossello and Will Corrigan scored two goals each. Sergio Perkovic, Jim Marlatt, P.J. Finley, Eddy Lubowicki and Nick Koshansky scored one goal each.
As the Irish faced a 6-2 deficit, poise, not panic, ruled on the field and the sidelines for the Irish.
"Playoff lacrosse can be tough," Irish coach Kevin Corrigan said. "If a team doesn't have poise and maintain its sense of itself and its game plan in the face of some adversity, whether it's the first quarter or the fourth quarter, you're not going to be successful at this time of the year.
"We won a lot of close games over the course of the year. We've had to come from behind a couple of times to do it. There's no panic on our sidelines in that situation. We know we have to make adjustments and we know we have to start making some plays on the field. There's nobody yelling at anybody or getting panicked about what it is. It's just about, 'What's the next play? What do we have to do next?' To do that in a playoff environment, when you're favored and the No. 1 seed, a lot of teams might get nervous or get timid or whatever. That's kind of the opposite of what our guys' reaction was, which is awfully good for them."
Notre Dame's balance, depth and toughness proved to be too much for Towson.
"That's been the story all year," senior Will Corrigan said of the Irish balance. "So many different guys have stepped up.
"The toughness starts in practice. We battle every day. We're used to tough situations. We lose to our second team a lot of times. We're used to having to come back and battle for everything we get. It's great to have competition from one through 40 on our team."
Matt Landis, the Atlantic Coast Conference defensive player of the year, said the Irish were able to face adversity with determination.
"All the guys worked really hard this week, even through final exams," Landis said. "We came out pretty flat in the beginning of the game, but it's a testament to our team, coming back and grinding through and not letting getting down early get to us. We just came back and fought our way through.
"We have players all up and down the field, and everyone on our team is competitive and capable of doing great things. The guys who aren't playing battle in practice and make everybody better. We have guys all over the field making plays. We're relentless. In the past year and last season we've been down in big-time games, and we've always found a way to fight back and come through."
Finley stunned Towson when he took a face-off and sprinted for a critical goal with 1:45 left in the third quarter for a 10-8 lead.
"This is an amazing team," Finley said. "Whenever one area is not playing well, you can count on another area playing well. There are so many different contributors. Obviously, you always expect the big names to play well, but it's amazing when you can have so many contributors in one game. It speaks to how hard everyone practices and everyone buying into our system."
And buying into the Irish system will pay big dividends as Notre Dame continues its pursuit of a lacrosse championship.
The University of Notre Dame men's lacrosse team pursues excellence on and off the field through the three pillars in which the program is built:Character, Culture & Community. These three foundational values guide the promise of the program, which is to provide its student-athletes with the most compelling and enriching experience in all of college athletics. Through academics, competition, service and travel, the program aims to immerse its players in situations that enhance their student-athlete experience to help them become the people, students and teammates they aspire to be.
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