After Narrowly Missing Out Last Season, Can Notre Dame Get Back to Championship Weekend in 2022?

(Photo Courtesy of Notre Dame Athletics)

During Kevin Corrigan’s 32-years at the helm of Notre Dame lacrosse, the Fighting Irish have done nothing but rise and continue to stay amongst the top programs in college lacrosse. That success has included five Championship Weekend trips and two national title game appearances (2010, 2014).

In 2021, the Irish came within a goal of making it back to Championship Weekend for a sixth time in program history, falling to eventual NCAA runner-up Maryland, 14-13, in overtime in the quarterfinals. It was a gut-wrenching end to a season in which many believed Notre Dame may have had their most talented team ever due to the sheer amount of elite playmakers donning the traditional, gold domes on both ends of the field.

The Irish have fallen in the NCAA Quarterfinals four out of the last five full seasons. While they came close to getting back to playing on Memorial Day Weekend last spring, they ultimately fell short. But as is typically the case with programs like Notre Dame, there is always next season. And with as much talent as this team has coming into the 2022 season, that statement might ring truer than it ever has.

For the second year in a row, Corrigan and the Irish were one of the most aggressive and successful teams in the Transfer Portal this summer as they were able to grab players at positions of need to fill immediate holes this spring. The Irish picked up four players from the portal this offseason in LSM/D Matt Douglas from Lehigh, defenseman Jason Reynolds from Richmond, A/M Mike Hawkins from Colgate, and midfielder Matt Fedorjaka from Bucknell. All four are graduate transfers.

None of the aforementioned additions have the name cache of a Kyle Gallagher, but they certainly address immediate needs on this Irish roster. Reynolds, who started in every single game (52) of his career at Richmond, can fit right into that Irish defense, especially with the loss of Jack Kielty and Kyle Thorton. Much of the same can be said for LSM Douglas, who comes to South Bend after a strong career with Lehigh. Hawkins and Fedorjaka both have the potential to be solid contributors on an offense that returns a good bit of talented at the top from a year ago.

In addition to those four transfer portal additions, this Notre Dame team returns a sizable chunk of talent on both ends that makes this team a potential ACC and Championship Weekend contender once again this spring.

Junior attackman Pat Kavanagh headlines this Irish offense after a breakout sophomore season in which he led the team in points with 64 (26G/38A) while proving to be a human highlight reel. Kavanagh is joined on the offensive end by junior attackman Griffin Westlin (15G/16A) and fifth-year midfielder Wheaton Jackoboice (21G/10A). Midfielders Eric Dobson (16G/8A) and Quinn McCahon (14G/9A) also return for their sophomore and senior seasons after being the Irish’s fifth and sixth-leading scorers last season and apart of one of the best midfield units in college lacrosse.

Additionally, Notre Dame has brought in a pair of elite freshman attackman out of Taft (Conn.) in Chris Kavanagh and Jefferey Ricciardelli who are expected to be able to make an impact day one for this Irish squad, which ranked ninth alongside Lehigh in scoring offense last season with an average of 14.08 goals per game.

On the defensive end of the field, in addition to Reynolds and Douglas coming in, the Irish return fifth-year defenseman Arden Cohen as well as junior goalie Liam Entemann. Cohen has been a starter since day one and is the face of this Notre Dame defense, coming off a 2021 campaign in which he grabbed 26 ground balls and six caused turnovers. Entemann has been the starter in between the pipes since his freshman season and is coming off a spring in which he recorded 145 saves with a .585% save percentage.

LSM Jose Boyer also returns as an impact player for this Notre Dame defense, which allowed 8.92 goals per game as the nation’s third-best scoring defense a year ago. Boyer served as the Irish’s top LSM last spring and tallied 23 ground balls and 10 caused turnovers. Sophomore LSM Ross Burgmaster also returns to add even more depth at the position, and on the defensive end in general. He had a strong freshman campaign with 18 ground balls and three caused turnovers. Additionally, SSDM Ryan Hellenbeck returns for a fifth season to bolster that rope unit.

The Irish have pretty solid cores on both offense and defense coming into the 2022 season. But the one area where there is a big question mark is at the faceoff dot. Kyle Gallagher and Charlie Leonard are both gone after going 62% and 63%, respectively, as the top two options at the dot last season.

Sophomore Colin Hagstrom and senior Junior Almeida are the only two returners at the position. Almeida is the only one who saw any action last season, going 5-for-10 (50%) in three appearances. The Irish also bring in freshman Will Lynch out of Chaminade (N.Y.). Rated as a five-star by Inside Lacrosse, he went 24-for-32 (75%) as a senior and could very well get that starting nod as a freshman, or at least be an impact player, this spring in South Bend.

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