Notre Dame storms back in waning moments, tops Virginia in overtime in NCAA lax semis, 13-12

By Jerry Ratcliffe

Photo: UVA Athletics

Lars Tiffany was hoping for a storybook ending late in the day when his Virginia squad was locked in a battle with Notre Dame in the NCAA lacrosse national semifinals at Philadelphia’s Lincoln Financial Field.

The Irish had other thoughts on the finish, dominating the final minutes of regulation and striking quickly in overtime to pull out a 13-12 triumph and advance to Monday’s national championship against Duke, an overtime survivor over Penn State.

UVA owned an 11-9 lead on a Petey LaSalla goal with 8:54 left, and held that advantage until the stadium clock dipped under three minutes. Notre Dame would score three goals in the final 2:38 on scores from Chris Kavanagh, Eric Dobson (his fourth of the game) and finally, Jake Taylor with a mere 32 seconds remaining, to knot the game at 12-all. 

After the Irish won the faceoff in overtime, they immediately called timeout and didn’t waste any time executing their plans in sudden death, as Brian Tevlin drilled in the winning goal past UVA goalie Matt Nunes only 29 seconds into the extra period.

Notre Dame won the last three faceoffs and four of the last five in its comeback (the Irish won 16 of the game’s 28 faceoffs) and also led in ground balls, 42-30 (Virginia led the nation in ground balls coming into the weekend).

“Our team defense certainly was exposed at the end, but I don’t know if we played great team defense all game,” Tiffany said about his No. 2-seeded Cavaliers, which finished 13-4 on the season. “How many times did all of us see a Notre Dame shooter really close, and it looked like it was about to go in? Too close. And whoa, it didn’t go in. There’s Matt Nunes with another save.

“He’s the one — he’s the reason we had that one- or two-goal lead later in the game, because he just wouldn’t let the ball in as the game went on.”

Nunes posted 17 saves, and in the process set the Virginia single-season saves record (213), passing Alex Rode’s 2021 record of 212.

Nunes, who has two more years remaining in the program, set the record, but wasn’t satisfied with the outcome.

“Notre Dame is a super talented team,” said Nunes, who had three outstanding efforts against the Irish this season, including UVA’s two regular-season victories over Notre Dame, which was ranked No. 1 nationally in both previous encounters. “Both the Kavanagh brothers are great players. Eric Dobson, and that list can go on. They just ended up getting a little bit of a step, and I think I probably could have helped out our team more in the last couple of minutes, but all the credit goes to Notre Dame for drawing up those plays and getting good looks.”

Tevlin said the Irish got exactly what they were looking for on the overtime winning shot.

“Coming across the middle,” recalled Tevlin, “[I was] obviously dodging the cage, just looking to get there if I can, but if I didn’t, which I don’t think I did at first, send the ball over to [Dobson], set a pick for him, have him sweep across the top, and that’s something that we like, and we trust him there.

“But as I was coming across the top, they shut him off, did a little hesitation, bounced out, and then saw an open lane down to the goal, took it. Felt him around my neck, thought I was going to have at least a flag at the end there and figured no better time to shoot it then because if it goes in, it goes in. If not, our man-up is on the field, and trust those guys a lot.”

Dobson said that the Irish never lost faith, even when they trailed by two goals late in the game.

“That’s kind of why you play, right?,” Dobson said. “You don’t play for blowouts, you play to play in big games. Our face-up guys were huge for us getting us the ball back, and yeah, I think it was a lot of trust all over the field.”

Notre Dame coach Kevin Corrigan said the Irish weren’t thinking about trailing, just talking about making the next play. 

“We completely focused on the moment in the game and what came next,” said Corrigan, the son of the late Gene Corrigan, former UVA athletic director and ACC commissioner.

Virginia was led offensively by Connor Shellenberger with three goals and three assists, along with Thomas McConvey (one goal, two assists) and Patrick McIntosh (two goals, one assist). Shellenberger finished up his junior season with 11 goals and 11 assists in three NCAA games.

Notre Dame jumped to a 2-0 lead early, but neither team led by more than one goal after that until 10:24 remained in regulation, when UVA’s Griffin Schutz made it 10-8, Cavaliers.

The game was knotted at 6-6 at halftime, and UVA led 9-8 after three.

Xander Dickson ended his season and Virginia career with 61 goals, a program single-season record.

Tiffany’s Cavaliers were the leading offensive team in the nation coming in, but were outshot as they fell short of claiming a third title in the last five NCAA lacrosse championships. Notre Dame took 49 shots to UVA’s 37.

While Virginia didn’t get it done offensively, its coach wasn’t pleased with how he handled his own defense.

“I’m not happy with the way I guided the defense at the end of the game, but I don’t want to take credit away from Notre Dame,” Tiffany said. “I didn’t do my job at the end as a defensive coach because when you’re giving up goals that quickly, it’s on me.”

GAME NOTES (Courtesy UVA Media Relations)

  • The game marked Virginia’s 25th NCAA semifinals appearance.
  • The Cavaliers finished with a single-season program record of 190 total assists.
  • With 17 saves, Matthew Nunes set the Virginia single season saves record (213) after surpassing Alex Rode’s 2021 record of 212 saves.
  • With three goals and three assists, Connor Shellenberger finished 2023 NCAA with 11 goals and 11 assists in three tournament games.
  • Shellenberger’s six points moved him to No. 2 all-time on UVA’s NCAA Tournament career points list, pass Tim Whiteley.
  • With six points against Irish, Shellenberger now sits at 56 career points in NCAA Tournament games, passing Tim Whiteley for second place all-time in Virginia’s history.
  • Xander Dickson (1g) concluded his career with 61 goals, the UVA single season record.
  • Dickson also registered at least one goal in all 17 games this season.
  • Dickson tied Michael Kraus’s 2018 83-point campaign for third best on UVA’s all-time single season points list.
  • With one goal and two assists, Thomas McConvey rounded out his career having registered at least one point in all 69 career games. McConvey scored 155 goals and 71 assists to total 226 career points.
  • McConvey finished the season with 28 goals and 24 assists to tie Dox Aitken’s 2019 single season points record (52) by a UVA midfielder.
  • McConvey’s 24 assists shattered the previous UVA single-season assists record, which was shared by Chris Rotelli (2003) and Drew Thompson (2006).
  • With one goal, Payton Cormier extended his point streak to 44 games. During his streak, Cormier has registered 133 goals and 26 assists for a total of 159 points.
  • With 52 goals on the year, Cormier tied for fourth on UVA’s single-season goals list with Doug Knight (1995).