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Men’s Lacrosse came close to defeating the No.2 Fighting Irish.  (Megan Albrittain / The Villanovan)

by Frank Scicchitano

The Wildcats journeyed to South Bend this past Saturday for a difficult test against No. 2 Notre Dame.

The Irish handed the No. 19 ’Cats their first Big East loss of the season with a 13-9 victory as they fall to 5-7 overall with a solid 4-1 conference record.

With the win, Notre Dame improves to 10-2 overall with an identical 4-1 record in Big East competition.

Despite the loss, Villanova is in a three-way tie atop the conference standings, joined by Notre Dame and Syracuse.

They also join Syracuse as one of two teams to clinch a spot in the Big East Championships, which are being held at Villanova Stadium on May 2 and 4.

The game started slowly as both teams were held in check for most of the first half.

Villanova jumped ahead 2-0 with early goals from senior midfielder Max Hart and junior midfielder Kevin O’Neil.

Notre Dame answered with a pair of their own from freshman attacker Matt Kavanagh and sophomore midfielder Jack Near to tie the game at two.

After 10 minutes, O’Neil scored his second goal as Villanova regained the lead.

Shortly after, Notre Dame scored another pair of goals, including Kavanagh’s second of the game, to take a 4-3 lead into halftime.

A trio of Villanova seniors opened the second half on fire as attackers Will Casertano and Jack Rice notched their first goals of the game and Hart notched his second.

This hot start to the second half gave the Wildcats a 6-4 advantage, their largest lead of the game.

However, the defense was unable to keep Notre Dame out of their net as the Irish went on a five-goal run to take a 9-6 lead with 13 minutes to play.

Later in the fourth quarter, Villanova cut the deficit to one goal after Rice scored two more goals, making the score 10-9.

Notre Dame finished the game with three straight goals to secure the 13-9 victory.

Rice fueled the Wildcat effort with four goals, bringing his season total to 26. He is tied for third place in the Big East with 2.8 goals per game.  Saturday’s performance was Rice’s 18th career hat trick.

Notre Dame’s junior attacker John Scioscia paced the Irish with four goals, including three in the fourth period when the Wildcats were outscored 7-3.

Junior LSM John LoCascio led the ’Nova defense by collecting seven ground balls and forcing four turnovers.

Notre Dame’s senior John Kemp was the victorious goalkeeper as he recorded 14 saves and improved his season record to 10-2.  Villanova sophomore goalkeeper Reed Carlson had 12 stops in the loss and fell to 4-3 on the year.

For the fourth time this season, junior midfielder Thomas Croonquist won 15 or more faceoffs in a game as he went 16-of-26 on the afternoon.

Villanova outperformed the Irish in two major categories despite falling short on the scoreboard.  They outshot Notre Dame 37-35 and grabbed 40 groundballs to their opponents 34.  Both teams failed to score on extra-man opportunities, each going 0-for-2.

All of Villanova’s losses this season have come to teams ranked in the top 20 in the national polls and no margin of defeat has been by more than four goals.

They have played one of the most difficult schedules in the country which has featured four matchups with top-five teams.

The Wildcats will close their regular season at home this Saturday as the play host to the Providence Friars.  The game is scheduled to start at 1 p.m. and Nova Nation will honor the team’s seniors with a Senior Day Ceremony.

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