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Men’s lacrosse: St. John’s stuns No. 2 Notre Dame, 8-7, in BIG EAST semifinals, will meet Syracuse for title

Friday, 4th May 2012

Categories Boy's/Men's, College, Posted 5/4/12
From Press Release

The most successful season in Red Storm lacrosse history added an impressive chapter as St. John’s (8-6, 3-3) defeated No. 2 Notre Dame (11-1, 6-0) 8-7 in the first-ever BIG EAST semifinal at Villanova Stadium on Thursday.

“Obviously this is very exciting for us,” said head coach Jason Miller. “I give my guys all the credit in world for coming in and believing that they could win. I thought we played a great first half and a great third quarter. To their credit, Notre Dame made it interesting in the end. They have a way of doing that so it was to be expected, but it was the first time that we have hung on against them. We’re real excited.”

The victory punches St. John’s ticket into the first-ever BIG EAST Lacrosse Championship on Saturday, May 5 at 12 p.m. The Red Storm will take on the Syracuse who defeated Villanova 15-6. The game will broadcast live on ESPNU.

The win goes down as the biggest in program history as the No. 2 Fighting Irish were the highest ranked team the Red Storm has ever defeated. Earlier this season St. John’s defeated then-No. 20 Georgetown 13-12 in overtime and also defeated the Hoyas on Feb. 28, 2009 when they were ranked No. 5 to mark the Red Storm’s last two ranked victories.

“It is a great feeling to get to be in the final,” said junior goalie Jeff Lowman. “Our goal from day one when we came back in January was to get to the BIG EAST tournament and once we completed that goal we didn’t want to be satisfied. It was a real good game for all four quarters. Everyone came together as a team and we held on. It’s an exciting feeling and I am glad for all of the guys out there.”

Kieran McArdle, the BIG EAST’s leading scorer during the regular season, made a statement on the national stage scoring three goals and dishing out four assists against the Fighting Irish. The seven points is the second highest total for McArdle in his career as he tallied eight against Holy Cross on Feb. 18, 2012. The first team All-BIG EAST selection eclipsed the 50 point mark on the season as he has reached 56 points (26 goals, 30 assists) on the year. McArdle is now tied for ninth all-time among St. John’s scoring leaders as his 95 career points matches Justin O’Donnell (2005-2008).

Colin Keegan added a goal and two assists and senior captain Terence Leach pitched in with one goal and one assist. Leach’s goal came on the man-up which raises his BIG EAST leading total to 11 on the season. Lowman anchored the defense from net with 13 saves on the day including four in the fourth quarter to preserve the one goal lead. Dillon Ayers and Harrison Freid played inspired defense throughout the game as each finished with four groundballs.

St. John’s got off to a hot start against the nation’s top-ranked defense scoring a pair of goals in the game’s opening minutes. Keegan scored the first goal in BIG EAST Lacrosse Championship history off a feed from McArdle. McArdle would give the Red Storm a 2-0 lead three minutes later after a pretty inside roll from behind cage freed him up for an open shot. Notre Dame would respond with a Pat Cotter to cut the deficit to 2-1 heading into the second quarter.

The Fighting Irish would tie the game on a man-up opportunity at the beginning of the second quarter, before the Red Storm ripped off a three-goal run of its own to end the half. Leach dodged into the center and found McArdle right of net for his second goal of the game to put St. John’s up 3-2. Another solid find from McArdle set up Charlie Holenstein on the right wing and the lefty fired a laser into the net to put St. John’s up 4-2 early in the second quarter. Holenstein’s goals have rallied St. John’s all season long as the team is now 6-0 in games when the senior finds the net. Senior Harry Kutner took a quick pass from Keegan and beat Notre Dame goalie John Kemp five-hole on an underhand shot to give St. John’s a 5-2 lead heading into intermission.

It was the third consecutive time the Red Storm took a lead into half-time against the Fighting Irish. Earlier this season St. John’s led 4-3 at the Big City Classic on April 1 before falling 13-6. Notre Dame also held an identical halftime lead of 5-2 at Notre Dame on April 16, 2011 before eventually falling 10-7.

St. John’s came out of the locker room looking to reverse that trend as McArdle combined with Keegan for their third score of the game as McArdle scored his third of the game to push the score to 6-2. Westy Hopkins responded for Notre Dame to shrink the lead to 6-3 with 10:14 left in the quarter. Back-to-back goals would give St. John’s its biggest lead of the contest as McArdle set up Fitzgerald for his signature strike from straight on and then fed Leach on the man-up to make the score 8-3 with less than a minute left in the third.

The Red Storm appeared to have the game in control to start the fourth quarter but a team of Notre Dame’s quality would not roll over without a fight. The Fighting Irish had overcome four-goal deficits against Villanova and Georgetown in the past three weeks and had four one-goal games on the season.

Notre Dame scored four straight goals in the fourth quarter and had St. John’s upset bid on the ropes as the Fighting Irish trailed by just one with 2:53 left in the game. A three-minute span, that seemed to last an eternity, featured a pair of Lowman saves and numerous scraps for groundballs by the determined St. John’s defense. A shot by Notre Dame in the final seconds that rolled just wide put the air back into the stadium and prompted the emptying of the Red Storm bench out onto the field to celebrate.

“It was getting scary towards end when they had possession with under two minutes left,” said McArdle. “I knew our defense would step up and make a big play like they did when they killed the ball, got it on the ground and came up with it. Our defense held them off.”

It was the first victory for St. John’s over Notre Dame in program history. The eight wins for the Red Storm increases the highest total since program reinstatement in 2005 and is the most since the 1995 campaign. With one win over Syracuse, St. John’s will have secured a spot in the NCAA Lacrosse tournament.

St. John’s wraps up its seven game road swing with a trip to Villanova next weekend for a 4 p.m. faceoff. Keep up with Red Storm lacrosse all season long at and on Twitter by following @STJ_Lacrosse.



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