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Notre Dame headed to Final Four

Notre Dame is headed back to the Final Four. The No. 4-ranked Irish lacrosse team scored six goals in the fourth quarter to beat No. 5 Virginia 12-10 in the NCAA quarterfinals in Philadelphia Sunday afternoon.

Eric Keppeler (24) scored one goal and assisted another in Notre Dame's 12-10 quarterfinal win Sunday afternoon.

For the second time in three years and the fourth time in program history, Notre Dame earned a trip to the Final Four, which will be played in Foxborough, Mass. next weekend. To get there they had to unseat last year’s national champion Virginia and 2011 Tewaarton Award winner Steele Stanwick. Stanwick scored twice, including the game’s last goal, but Notre Dame’s four-point cushion in the final minutes was large enough to knock out the Cavaliers.

Irish junior Ryan Foley broke an 8-8 tie with 7:41 left in the game when he ripped a shot past Virginia’s Rob Fortunata while taking a high hit from an oncoming defender. Foley was taken off the field in a stretcher and put in a neck brace after the hit. He went to the hospital, but didn’t appear to have a major injury.

“I think Ryan is okay,” Irish coach Kevin Corrigan said in a post-game interview on ESPNU. “They just wanted to be careful. They took him to the hospital. His parents are with him and so are our prayers.”

Foley’s goal started a 4-0 run for the Irish that broke open what had been a close, back-and-forth battle to that point. Eric Keppeler (1 goal, 1 assist) and Sean Rogers (2 goals) scored within a minute of each other. Senior Max Pfeifer finished his hat trick day with 90 seconds left in the game to lock up a win. With Fortunata playing out of the net, Pfeifer picked up a loose ball in the box and almost immediately had his legs taken out from under him by a defender. He managed to spin, shoot and find the back of the net one his way down to the turf.

Notre Dame followed the same recipe for success that got them into the quarterfinals. Eight different players scored for the Irish and junior goalie John Kemp made 14 saves in the game.

Goals from Pfeifer and freshman Conor Doyle gave the Irish an early 2-0 lead, and they stayed ahead by a slim margin for the rest of the first half. Virginia shut down Notre Dame’s attack in the third quarter and scored two goal to the game 6-6 heading into the final 15 minutes.

“You have to have smart possessions. We did that for three quarters of the game. The third quarter was a little bit of a nightmare for us,” Corrigan said.

The Cavaliers made a late push with goals from Stanwick and junior Matt White in the final minute but got no closer than 12-10.

Notre Dame will play No. 1 Loyola in the semifinals next Saturday. The Greyhounds beat Denver on Saturday to advance.

The Irish landed the seventh seed in the Big East tournament after losing two of three games to Connecticut this weekend. Notre Dame went into the regular season finale on Saturday with a chance to finish anywhere between fourth and seventh in the conference. UConn used four different pitchers to shut out the Irish 4-0.

Notre Dame’s softball team plays Arizona Sunday night with a chance to make it to the NCAA Super Regional round. The Irish are 2-1 in the Tucson, Ariz., bracket so far with wins over Hawai`i and North Dakota State. They lost 7-2 to the Wildcats Saturday and will need to beat them twice in a double header Sunday to keep their season alive.

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