Chris Kavanagh, left, and brother Pat Kavanagh of the Notre Dame...

Chris Kavanagh, left, and brother Pat Kavanagh of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish celebrates Chris' goal against the Maryland Terrapins in the first half of the NCAA Division I Men's Lacrosse Championship at Lincoln Financial Field on Monday in Philadelphia. Credit: Getty Images/Mitchell Leff

PHILADELPHIA — On the bus ride to Lincoln Financial Field on Monday morning, Chris Kavanagh passed the time scrolling through some of the pictures on his phone. Specifically he was looking back at the ones from his freshman and sophomore seasons at Notre Dame, when he first became teammates with his older brother Pat — who already was a star for the school — and still was very much in his shadow.

“I was kind of crying for 25 minutes knowing this was going to be my last game with ‘51,’ one of the best players, if not the best, to ever play here,” Chris said.

Not exactly the way one would want to prepare for a national championship game, with tears streaming down to form puddles on the handheld screen. But the Kavanaghs don’t do many things routinely or the way others might.

The brothers from Rockville Centre showed that again — and one final time — in leading Notre Dame to a second straight NCAA men’s lacrosse title with a 15-5 win over Maryland.

Chris Kavanagh had five goals and was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player; his 23 points in the four games of the postseason were two shy of the record. Pat Kavanagh punctuated his career with a rare game in which he did not score. Instead he had six assists, which seemed to make him just as happy . . . especially with two of them coming on goals by his brother.

“He’s been my best friend my entire life,” Pat Kavanagh said. “To do this the past three years with him and win back-to-back national championships with my little brother and best friend since he was born, it’s incredible. The kid is blossoming into a superstar, but I feel like he’s always been one . . . I am so proud of him.”

Chris still has one year of eligibility left at Notre Dame to cap a family legacy that goes back more than a decade, when their oldest brother, Matt, brought the school to its first two Final Fours. But the era of the Kavanagh brothers playing together, one that can rival other sibling pairings of the sport’s lore such as the Gaits, the Powells and the Thompsons, has come to an end.

It concluded with confetti.

“That whole family, the competitive drive that they have is really unique,” coach Kevin Corrigan said. “It’d be hard to overstate the impact that the Kavanagh family has had on our program, in all honesty.”

About the only thing that seemed to slow down top-seeded Notre Dame (16-1) was the thunderstorm that delayed the start of the game about two hours. Then No. 7 Maryland (11-6) opened the game with two quick goals, and the score was tied at 3 midway through the first quarter. That was about it as far as the game being competitive, though.

Notre Dame scored the next seven goals in a span of 19:51 to put the game out of reach. The 15-5 result was the largest margin of victory in a championship game since Princeton’s 15-5 win over Maryland in 1998. As they were all year, Notre Dame was too skilled and too deep for the competition to keep up.

“We knew what was going to happen,” said Maryland coach John Tillman, who hoped for the best but had no illusions about the Notre Dame monster his team faced. “Were we the best lacrosse team? We weren’t. But we maxed out what we had.”

Most of the afternoon was about watching what kinds of acrobatic, athletic, creative plays the Kavanaghs and their teammates could come up with.

The most astounding was the one that made it 9-3 in the second quarter. Pat Kavanagh was behind the cage and fed a pass to Chris, who caught the ball away from the crease but wrapped it around his body in one smooth motion for a blind backhand shot that rippled the net.

It was the 44th time the two brothers connected for a goal and they finished with 45 such scoring plays in their careers.

“A lot of our game is just very instinctual,” Pat Kavanagh said. “But a lot of the stuff you see out there on game days, the crazy backhands, behind-the-backs, around-the-worlds that me and Chris and also Jake Taylor like to throw, we practice that stuff. We don’t just pull it out of our back pocket. Whenever we pick up a stick, mess around, or growing up on Long Island, we were always practicing stuff like that, crazy trick shots. That’s always the goal for us, to have fun and play hard.”

For three years, they did exactly that. On Monday, they did it for the final time.

“It was a pretty emotional day,” Chris Kavanagh said. “But we’ve put in the work for a while . . . We dug down deep and got it done.”

And undoubtedly shed a few more tears on the bus ride home.


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