John Desko took the podium first on Sunday afternoon after his Syracuse men's lacrosse team's 15-14 loss to Notre Dame in the Atlantic Coast Conference title game at PPL Park. The coach looked down at his stat sheet and noticed something missing next to Notre Dame goalie Conor Kelly's name.
"I don't see a save for him in the fourth quarter here," Desko said. "But he made a pretty big one."
The shot was officially recorded as wide, but there was no doubt that Kelly, who starred at the Haverford School, robbed Syracuse's Kevin Rice to save Notre Dame's victory with two seconds remaining in regulation.
"Yeah, I caught it in my stick," Kelly said, laughing. "Then I ran out with it."
Time expired and Kelly was mobbed by his teammates, who celebrated an automatic bid into the NCAA tournament. The Irish entered the ACC playoffs as the No. 4 seed and were considered on the bubble for an NCAA spot.
The tournament looked locked up when the Irish took a 15-10 lead with 9 minutes, 45 seconds remaining, but Syracuse scored four straight to pull within one.
"They're like the Terminator," Notre Dame coach Kevin Corrigan said. "You can't kill them."
Thanks to the efforts of Kelly (seven saves), tournament MVP Matt Kavanagh (four goals, two assists) and Conor Doyle (two goals, three assists), Notre Dame (8-5) defeated Syracuse for just the second time in 10 tries. Randy Staats tallied five goals and Rice had one goal and six assists for the Orange (10-4).
Syracuse, which had never lost a conference tournament game, eliminated Notre Dame in last season's Big East semifinals at Villanova. Early on, it looked like the same result in a different league. The Orange jumped out to a 6-3 lead, but Notre Dame rallied back as Kelly held the Orange scoreless for more than 16 minutes of the second half.
Kelly, who is from St. Davids, regained his starting position from freshman Shane Doss last Saturday and then made 14 saves to help the Irish shock top-seeded Maryland in Friday's semifinal.
On Saturday, Notre Dame practiced at the Haverford School, where Kelly was a three-time all-American.
"That was awesome," Kelly said. "Reliving the glory days."