Accountability, Love and Trust: How Notre Dame Reached the Pinnacle of Lacrosse

PHILADELPHIA — It was never about revenge.

As common as it became these last few weeks for people to characterize this Notre Dame season as a four-month clapback at the NCAA selection committee, coach Kevin Corrigan felt compelled to clarify how the Irish summoned strength from last year’s snub.

“Did last year motivate us and galvanize this team? Absolutely. Revenge is not the right word, though,” Corrigan said in the press conference following the Fighting Irish’s 13-9 victory over Duke in the NCAA championship game Monday at Lincoln Financial Field. “From the moment we didn’t get into the tournament we said two things. One, we think this is unfair, but life is not fair. And two, we left ourselves vulnerable to this happening, and that’s on us.

“We’re not going to blame other people. We’re going to say from this moment forward, let’s do what we can do to make sure this doesn’t happen to us again next year. I don’t think that’s revenge. That’s accountability and owning up to what you had control of, and that’s what our guys did. That’s why I’m so proud of them.”

“Did last year motivate us and galvanize this team? Absolutely. ”

The longest-tenured Division I men’s lacrosse coach in the country, Corrigan used a different word to describe how Notre Dame managed the emotional rollercoaster that ended with the program’s first national championship in its 42-year history.


It came from best-selling author and motivational speaker Jon Gordon, a former Cornell lacrosse player who visited the team in South Bend before it ventured east for its sixth championship weekend appearance. All five previous appearances ended in heartbreak, including NCAA championship game losses to Duke in 2010 and 2014.

“He said when you’re feeling nervous and you’re feeling fear and trepidation, just remember the thing that drives that out best is love,” Corrigan said. “Just love what you’re doing. Love the fact that you’re here. Love that you got these guys that you love and that are with you. If you concentrate on that, the fear and the uncertainty go away.”

If accountability and love carried the Irish to Memorial Day, trust got them over the top. Namely on defense, where they were slow to slide and content to let NCAA championship MVP Liam Entenmann gobble up low-percentage shots.

Except for the 12-minute stretch in the third quarter during which Duke rallied from a 6-1 deficit to tie the game at 7, Notre Dame’s defense proved impenetrable.

For the second time this season, second-team All-American defenseman Chris Fake neutralized Tewaaraton Award finalist and USILA Player of the Year Brennan O’Neill. The hulking lefty managed just one man-up goal on 1-for-9 shooting against Fake, who gave O’Neill very little runway with the ball in his stick.

“He showed up on the biggest stage in the biggest game of our lives and held an unbelievable player to a relatively quiet game,” Entenmann said.

Fake had similar success guarding O’Neill during the teams’ regular-season matchup, a 17-12 Irish win April 8 in South Bend. O’Neill’s only goal in that game also came on an extra-man opportunity. He had five turnovers that day, two caused by Fake. In two games against Notre Dame he shot a combined 2-for-14 with seven turnovers.

Both Entenmann and midfielder Brian Tevlin, who transferred with Fake from Yale as graduate students and roommates, said they thought Fake should have been a first-team All-American. He earned second-team honors from USA Lacrosse and the USILA and a third-team nod from Inside Lacrosse.

“He doesn’t get the respect I think he deserves,” said Tevlin, who scored the overtime winner to beat Virginia in the semifinals and had the go-ahead goal late in the third quarter after Duke had rallied to tie the game 34 seconds earlier. “He’s as focused and dedicated to his craft as you could be.”

Fake credited scout team attackman Jeremy Hopsicker for helping to prepare him for O’Neill and said Entenmann deserves just as much recognition for twice stifling one of the most dominant players in the college game.

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