Always the bridesmaid, never the bride.
Until 2023, that had been the story of Notre Dame men’s lacrosse. A team that had come tantalizingly close to an elusive first national championship several times but never ascended to the sport’s mountaintop.
26 NCAA tournament berths. Six Final Fours. Two national championship game appearances and two national championship losses.
The third time proved to be the charm for the Irish on Memorial Day in Philadelphia. Facing off against Duke - the team that denied Notre Dame glory in each of the team’s two prior title game outings - the Irish prevailed for a 13-9 victory.
The win was especially sweet for the team’s head coach, Kevin Corrigan. Corrigan is the longest-tenured head coach in Division I men’s lacrosse, and holds the Division I men’s lacrosse record for most wins at a single school. He’s a Notre Dame legend in every sense of the word.
And now he’s a national champion.
The team Corrigan guided to the title was an experienced one. Eight of the ten starters for the title game against Duke were seniors or graduate students. Four more came off the bench, including the likes of Brian Tevlin (two goals in the championship) and Jack Simmons (a goal and two assists).
But none of Corrigan’s veteran players perhaps had a bigger impact than senior goalkeeper Liam Entenmann. Making a season-high 18 saves, Entenmann helped hold Duke to its lowest offensive output of the season. He was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player.
For all his heroics, Entenmann stayed humble after the game, crediting his successes to his teammates:
“It’s about the guys in the locker room that don’t really get a lot of credit or attention from the media and stuff like that,” Entenmann said. “I know it sounds cliche, but I really wouldn’t be up here, we wouldn’t be champions without the guys that are the unsung heroes of the team and do all the work behind the scenes.”
Another main story of Notre Dame’s title run was the attacking partnership of senior Pat Kavanagh and sophomore Chris Kavanagh.
The brothers were prolific for the Irish all season. With Chris leading the team in goals and Pat leading the team in assists, the pairing ended up as number one and two on the final point leaderboard for the season.
The Kavanaghs’ impact on the Duke contest came when Notre Dame needed it most. Chris started things off with an assist on the Irish’s first goal, a Brian Tevlin tally that leveled the score at one early.
Pat later got in on the action with an assist to Tevlin of his own, setting up a goal that put the Irish back in front late in the third quarter. Less than thirty seconds later, Chris pushed the Notre Dame lead to two with an acrobatic goal seconds before the quarter ended.
After the game, Pat remarked on what it meant to capture the title with a program his family (the Kavanaghs’ older brother, Matt, also starred for Notre Dame in the early 2010s) had contributed so much to:
“It’s unbelievable,” said Kavanagh. “It started with Matt getting recruited by Coach Corrigan in 2010 or 2011… it’s been over a decade in the making… The best memories of my childhood were watching Matt play at Notre Dame. Winning it and seeing my family afterwards was so surreal, I don’t think it's hit yet. I owe everything to them, and Coach Corrigan as well for taking a chance on me.”
Though Entenmann earned Most Outstanding Player honors, the graduate student midfielder Tevlin could safely be penciled in for Most Clutch.
Arriving in South Bend ahead of the 2023 season as a graduate transfer from Yale, Tevlin entered the program with plenty of big game experience. Tevlin’s knack for coming up in big moments was evident throughout the spring. He wasn’t the most prolific scorer, but 13 of his 18 goal contributions came against ranked opponents.
Tevlin was especially timely in Notre Dame’s final two games against Virginia and Duke. In the Irish’s semifinal thriller against the Cavaliers, he assisted Notre Dame’s last gasp equalizer to force overtime. He then scored an unassisted goal in overtime to send the Irish to the national championship.
He made his presence felt in the title game as well. His first goal was Notre Dame’s first, sparking a six goal Notre Dame run that ran all the way until halftime. He’d get his second in the third quarter, this time giving the Irish a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.
It took Notre Dame a long while, but at last the Irish sit atop the NCAA men’s lacrosse world. For Corrigan, his lengthy wait for a title only made the moment of triumph more special:
“We have a tradition at the end of our last game where we all stand in the locker room and our seniors talk. And they talk about the experience that they had playing for us, and how much it meant to them. They tell stories, and share great team moments. And I’ve always wanted to have one where all the stories were good, and it didn’t end with a loss and tears. The tears are all going to be from joy [this time].”