March 2, 2013

Kavanagh, Irish Create Own Luck, Beat North Carolina in 3OT

by Brian Hartnett | LaxMagazine.com | Related: Rapid Reaction/Live Blog Replay

Notre Dame freshman Matt Kavanagh (50, right) netted his second-straight overtime winner for the Irish as they knocked off North Carolina in triple overtime.
© Craig Houtz (file)

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — The situation looked all too familiar for Notre Dame freshman attackman Matt Kavanagh.

For the second straight week, his team was deadlocked in a 9-9 tie in overtime against a Top 10 opponent.

The first-year standout once again took matters into his hands, scoring his second consecutive game-winning goal to lift the No. 2 Irish to a 10-9 victory in triple-overtime against No. 9 North Carolina at Arlotta Stadium on Saturday.

This time, Kavanagh forced a turnover off the third-overtime faceoff and streaked downfield, beating North Carolina freshman goalkeeper Kieran Burke for the game-winner just fifteen seconds into the period.

"Right out of the timeout, [Notre Dame coach Kevin Corrigan] said, 'If we have transition, push it,'" Kavanagh said. "[Junior midfielder] Jim [Marlatt] drew a slide, so I just shot it."

Kavanagh not only scored his second game-winning goal but also recorded the second four-goal game of his college career on a day when he accounted for six total points.

"I think his style of play really fits our style of play, which is a terrific thing because he just enhances it and makes people around him better that way," Corrigan said of Kavanagh. "He's a playmaker — he knows how to make plays, he has a great feel for the game and when we're playing good lacrosse, he's going to get a lot of good chances."

For several stretches of the game, Notre Dame (3-0) struggled to play top-notch lacrosse. The Irish found themselves down 9-6 with 8:29 left in the game after North Carolina (2-2) scored five of the first six goals in the second half.

"At that point, we were focused on trying to make the next play," Corrigan said. "There are no three-point plays out there. It's just about making the next one and, if you can make one more, you put a little game pressure on them."

Notre Dame wasted little time in reducing the deficit, as Kavanagh recovered a failed clear and hammered a shot past Burke with 7:43 remaining.

Still, it looked like the Tar Heels would take home a close victory until around the one-minute mark, when sophomore defender Jake Bailey was given a 30-second penalty for pushing. Notre Dame capitalized on its extra-man opportunity, as Kavanagh found senior attackman Sean Rogers in front of the crease and Rogers batted it past Burke for the goal.

"Well, we're up 9-7 late, and we foul," North Carolina coach Joe Breschi said. "I'd say that was nobody's fault, just an aggressive play. You get called for a push and that kind of changed the complexion of the game. We knew they were going to go with a quick-hitter to try to get something on the board because they were down two, and they did a nice job."

After winning the ensuing face-off, Notre Dame knotted the score up with just 11 seconds to go, with Kavanagh beating Burke on the far side.

"I think the great thing is that we've had two overtime victories where we came back in the fourth quarter," Corrigan said. "It shows that we didn't panic, and our guys stayed focused—they just made consistent plays down the stretch."

"He knows how to make plays, he has a great feel for the game."

— Notre Dame coach Kevin Corrigan on Matt Kavanagh

Just as Notre Dame found itself making a second straight comeback, North Carolina found itself in a familiar position: the Tar Heels lost a three-goal lead for the second time this season, the first coming in a 12-11 loss to Massachusetts on Feb. 16.

"It's unfortunate because we did play hard, and we did play well, but not well enough to win," Breschi said.

Trailing 5-4 at the half, North Carolina switched to a zone defense for the third quarter. The Tar Heels went on a 4-0 run and held the Irish scoreless for the first fourteen minutes of the quarter.

"We felt they were starting to move the ball pretty quickly offensively and get inside opportunities in man-to-man, and we thought if we could continue to mix it up, we weren't sure how they would react," Breschi said.

"Burke was seeing the ball and when your goalie is seeing the ball, it's a good thing."

Burke tallied a total of 15 saves on the day for North Carolina. Senior attackman Marcus Holman, sophomore attack Joey Sankey and freshman midfielder Steve Pontrello each scored twice for the Tar Heels, while sophomore attack Jimmy Bitter notched three assists.

"We came in here and played hard," Breschi said. "We made some good adjustments, played some zone in the second half and stymied them for a good portion of the game."

On the other end, Notre Dame senior goalkeeper John Kemp stopped 11 shots for the Irish. Rogers scored two goals, while sophomore attack Conor Doyle had two assists and one goal.

"We made one more [play] than them, and I feel a little bit like I did last week," Corrigan said. "We can play better, and we'll keep trying to play better, but we're making plays right now."


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