Notre Dame goalie Liam Entenmann in the fourth quarter of...

Notre Dame goalie Liam Entenmann in the fourth quarter of the quarterfinals against Georgetown on May 18, 2024 at Hofstra. Credit: Bob Sorensen

Notre Dame lacrosse has spent most of its existence chipping away at the idea that it did not belong. As the game flourished on the Atlantic seaboard through the 20th century, the Indiana school remained far off the sport’s map.

But things started to build. In 1990, Notre Dame made its first NCAA Tournament. In 2001, it crashed the Final Four for the first time. In 2010 and 2014, it played in the championship games.

Then last year Notre Dame finally took its place among the elites by winning its first national title.

Notre Dame returns to the Final Four this weekend not only wearing that crown as the defending champs but brandishing a new identity. After all those years of clawing and stalking and hunting, Notre Dame has became the hunted.

It’s a whole different dynamic for the program, but one it has adjusted to well, arriving in Philadelphia for Saturday’s semifinals as the top seed in the tournament and the clear favorite to win titles in back-to-back seasons since Duke did it in 2013 and 2014. (Virginia won in 2019 and 2021 with no tournament played in 2020 due to the pandemic.)

After three of the other top seeds were upset in the quarterfinals, No. 1 Notre Dame (14-1) faces No. 5 Denver (13-3) at noon before No. 6 Virginia (12-5) faces No. 7 Maryland (10-5) in the second semifinal. The final will be played Monday.

“We’ve got a relentless competitiveness about our guys that shows up throughout a game but it also shows up week to week,” head coach Kevin Corrigan said. “We don’t measure ourselves against what happened as much as we measure ourselves against what are we capable of and what do we need to continue to develop to be the best version of ourselves. We have guys who seem to understand the journey is not over until it’s over and every moment before then is a chance to get better.”

Notre Dame attack Pat Kavanagh against Georgetown in the NCAA quarterfinals played at Hofstra on May 18, 2024. Credit: Bob Sorensen

Notre Dame is pretty close to that ideal right now. It has dominant scoring led by Pat and Chris Kavanagh, brothers from Rockville Centre (Pat played at Chaminade). It controls the faceoffs with Will Lynch (also from Rockville Centre and Chaminade). It has the best goalie in the nation in Liam Entenmann (from Point Lookout and Chaminade).

Along with that comes a pressure heavier than those shiny gold helmets to finish the job. Long gone are the plucky just-happy-to-be-here Notre Dame teams from Memorial Day Weekends of yore.

“One thing we say to ourselves a lot is: Would you rather be here, or would you rather be watching from your couch?” Entenmann said. “I’ve experienced both. I’ve experienced watching the Final Four from my couch after being eliminated from the tournament and I experienced the Final Four last year in person. Certainly it’s better in person. There may be some pressure there but it’s important to remember that this is what we play for. There is no backing down. You just have to rise to the occasion and tune everything else out.”

Added Chris Kavanagh: “Never let the moment get too big is the lesson we learned last year and what we are going to be preaching this upcoming week and especially when we touch down in Philly.”

Make no mistake though, this is big. Maybe even bigger than what they accomplished last year. This crew, which already changed the perception of the program, now has a chance to etch their names among the most dominant squads of all time and become some of the sport’s most decorated players ever.

All they have to do is win two more games.

Long Islanders in the men's Division I semifinals

Notre Dame

Danny Parker (Mount Sinai/St. Anthony’s)

Reilly Gray (Point Lookout/Chaminade)

Michael Lynch (Huntington/Chaminade)

Christian Alacqua (Manhasset/Chaminade)

Will Lynch (Rockville Centre/Chaminade)

Jalen Seymour (Melville/St. Anthony’s)

Liam Entenmann (Point Lookout/Chaminade)

Chris Kavanagh (Rockville Centre/Taft)

Pat Kavanagh (Rockville Centre/Chaminade)

Alex Zepf (Mineola/Chaminade)

Jake Bonomi (Northport/St. Anthony’s)

Denver

Tim Kirchner (Northport)

Virginia

Joey Terenzi (Manhasset)

Jack Walshe (Commack/St. Anthony’s)

Cole Webber (Garden City)

Maryland

Jack McDonald (South Side)

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