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No Wish For a Repeat: Syracuse Men’s Lacrosse Welcomes No. 7 Notre Dame to the Dome for Season Finale

Syracuse face-off specialist Jakob Phaup takes a draw at No. 15 North Carolina on Saturday, Apr. 16 during the Orange’s 14-13 road loss.

If there’s anything Syracuse men’s lacrosse is looking to avoid heading into Sunday’s matchup with No. 7 Notre Dame, it’s a repeat.

When the pair last matched up on Saturday, Apr. 2, the Fighting Irish wiped the Orange off the landing strip in South Bend, demolishing S.U. 22-6.

“Our problem has been focusing for 60 minutes,” Syracuse head coach Gary Gait said. “We make simple mistakes and leave guys wide open.”

Ninety-eight of S.U.’s 176 goals this season are first half markers, which means that roughly 56% of the team’s scores come before half-time. The season opener against Holy Cross creates a hefty chunk of those goals. Without that game, 79 of Syracuse’s 148 goals come in the first 30 minutes, which still comprises roughly 53% of the Orange’s goals.

Sunday is the season finale, which means Senior Day. Gait said the team hopes to finish strong for the upperclassmen.

“We want to put in a great week and finish this season on a good note and we want to do it to honor those seniors,” Gait said. “They’ve committed blood, sweat, and tears to this program.”

Notre Dame attack Jake Taylor put up a record-setting performance in South Bend last time with eight goals. The Denver-native has kept the fire burning with multiple goals in each of the three outings following the battle with Syracuse. That stretch includes a five-goal explosion on Marquette.

Joining Taylor on that scoresheet is the Kavanaugh brothers. The pair has 12 goals with six from each sibling since S.U. and N.D. last dueled. Freshman Chris Kavanaugh played consistent lacrosse with two tallies in each game during that stretch. Junior Pat Kavanaugh built an abacus counting up with one goal against No. 15 North Carolina, two against Marquette, and three notches against No. 10 Duke.

Face-off specialist Jakob Phaup won the battle 20-11 against the Fighting Irish in April, but the senior said he feels impressed by Notre Dame’s freshman FOGO Will Lynch.

“Looking back at that Notre Dame film, the kid, Will Lynch, has gotten a lot better,” Phaup said. “The last couple weeks, that kid has gone up against the best face-off guys in the country.”

Phaup boasts a better line on the season as far as face-off wins, nabbing 57.1% of his draws compared to Lynch’s 49.7%. Alternatively, Lynch has mirrorred Phaup’s sentiments: the N.D. junior bests Phaup since the last Syracuse and Notre Dame bout. Lynch won 57.9% of his face-offs in that time while Phaup only owned 53.4%.

Phaup rather obviously said Lynch continues to grow as a player, but in other terms of growth, S.U. redshirt freshman Jackson Birtwistle is on the way up, as well. Coach Gait said the attack fills an important role.

“We decided to make a change and give him a shot and he stepped up to the challenge,” Gait said.

While playing against No. 15 North Carolina on Saturday, Apr. 16, Birtwistle showed off for the first time, pouring in a hat trick. Coach Gait shot him the nod after pulling sophomore Mikey Berkman in the second half.

Birtwistle has scored in each of the last three games including a career-high five last week against No. 6 Virginia.

Syracuse and No. 7 Notre Dame get started on Sunday at noon. WAER’s coverage begins at 11:30 with GZA Countdown to Faceoff.