In the first year after major conference realignment, the ACC will have a newcomer as its champion in men’s lacrosse—either Notre Dame or Syracuse.
After a rough start to the season, Syracuse is playing its best lacrosse of the year. This sudden improvement helped the Orange avenge their earlier loss to Duke in the tournament semifinals. Scoring a last second goal, Dylan Donahue gave the Orange a 16-15 win. Notre Dame, too, had a flair for the dramatic as they took the lead with just six seconds remaining against top-seeded Maryland.
Syracuse has many reasons to feel good about this game. In a head-to-head meeting earlier in the season, the Orange knocked off the Irish 11-10. It has won eight of nine games against Notre Dame all-time. In the last game, Kevin Rice, who scored four goals and assisted on two, led the Orange. The Irish outshot Syracuse 40-33. Surprisingly enough, the Orange actually won a majority of the face offs, an area that they have not excelled at consistently. Syracuse will have to face one of the premiere face-off men in the nation again today.
Looking to build on its conference tournament excellence, Syracuse will attempt to win it’s fifth consecutive conference tournament. All four years that Syracuse has been in a conference, it has won the Big East Championship.
Standing in the way is Matt Kavanagh, the offensive leader of the Fighting Irish. The All-ACC player scored 24 goals and assisted on another 23 goals to lead the team in points. Notre Dame’s play “man-up” is also very good; it converts on more than half of its chances.
The Orange is 10-3 on the season, although it is only 2-3 in-conference play. However, the team has won six games in a row on its march to the finals. The team is led offensively by sophomore Kevin Rice, who has 29 goals and 33 assists, for a team leading 62 points. He scored three goals and had five assists against the Blue Devils. Dylan Donahue, a redshirt sophomore, leads the team in goals with 32. Billy Ward has scored in five straight, providing output from the Orange midfield.
In net, Syracuse has two very capable goaltenders. Dominic Lamolinara has started all 13 games for the team, but Bobby Wardwell has much better numbers. Wardwell is 6-0, while Lamolinara is 4-3. Wardwell has a GAA of only 10.09, while Lamolinara is allowing 13.23 goals per game.
Notre Dame has its fair share of goalie drama, as current starter Connor Kelley has started just the last two games for the Irish. The last time these two teams played, Shane Doss was the starter.
The ACC Final will take place today at 1:00 p.m. and can be seen on ESPNU. The no. 1-ranked women’s lacrosse team will also play for the ACC title today at 1:00 pm, against no.2 Maryland.
Posted by: Jason Weingold