MAKING IRISH HISTORY: Chris Fake brings the ball upfield in a game this spring for the Notre Dame men’s lacrosse team. Fake, a former Hun School standout, joined Notre Dame as a grad student this year and made the most out of his final college season, solidifying the back line and helping the Fighting Irish win their first-ever national title. In 2018, he helped the Yale University men’s lacrosse team win its first NCAA title in his freshman campaign. Moving up to the professional ranks, Fake is currently playing for the Waterdogs in the Premier Lacrosse League. (Photo provided courtesy of Notre Dame Athletics)
By Bill Alden
In 2018, Chris Fake produced a stellar debut campaign for the Yale University men’s lacrosse team, emerging as All-American defender for the Bulldogs who went on to win the program’s first NCAA title.
This past spring, Fake, a former Hun School standout, joined the Notre Dame men’s lax program as a grad student and made the most out of his final college season, solidifying the back line and helping the Fighting Irish win their first-ever national title.
For Fake, helping a second program win its first national title was a great way to culminate his college career.
“It is such an incredible experience, I have been on cloud nine for the past three weeks; it is still hitting me,” said Fake.
“Winning the national championship never really gets old. It is just like at Yale, it didn’t hit me for a while to really understand the immensity of what happened.”
Choosing Notre Dame for his grad season turned out to be an incredible move for Fake. Fake was initially considering North Carolina, Duke and Maryland in addition to Notre Dame as he and Yale teammate Brian Tevlin looked to play one more year together.
“We both had an extra year of eligibility; near the end of our last year at Yale, we knew we wanted to go somewhere together,” said Fake.
“We wanted to have a little bit of familiarity together and just be teammates for one more year so we took that opportunity. In the end, [Notre Dame] coach [Kevin] Corrigan and coach [Ryan] Wellner visited my house and they just expressed the most interest. After they visited our house, I just knew that was the spot I wanted to be.”
When the pair from Yale started fall ball at Notre Dame, Fake quickly realized they were in the right spot.
“It was actually incredibly impressive, I wasn’t sure how how we were going to be taken,” said Fake.
“If you are calling a spade a spade, we are going there to hopefully take someone’s spot, as bad as that sounds. They are some of our best friends now; they understand that and they still took us in with open arms. There was no animosity towards us whatsoever, only love and acceptance. It was a crazy thing to experience, but I think that is what made our team so great.”
The rugged 6’1, 205-pound Fake did have to master a new defensive scheme as he looked to fit in with the squad.
“It was pretty similar to Yale in terms of time commitment, but from my perspective, the defense is pretty different just the ways we play,” said Fake. “It is different things, the slide packages as a whole are pretty different.”
The Notre Dame squad was committed to produce a big season this spring after they were snubbed in 2022 when they weren’t selected to play in the NCAA tournament.
“Last year’s bracket was on every locker, it was tangible throughout the year,” said Fake.
“Every time we went into a lift, every time we had practice, it was always reminding us obviously. I didn’t experience that but it was tangible from the guys who were on the team last year.”
As the Fighting Irish prepared for the season, Fake sensed that the squad was primed to do special things in 2023.
“Some of the plays we were making in practice and preseason, watching the offense and our defense was playing well against our offense; it was really fun but you never really know until that first real challenge,” said Fake.
“That first real challenge came in the Georgetown game (a 15-8 win on February 25). We did an extremely good job with Georgetown. After that, we were OK, we are probably legit. We just needed to be consistent with it and we were.”
Notre Dame hit a bump in the road when it lost 15-10 to Virginia on March 25 to fall to 6-1.
“The first UVa game rattled us a little. We know we didn’t play our best game and that we had the potential to beat them,” said Fake.
“We had another loss to UVa (12-8 on April 13), but after that one, we were even more confident that we could beat them.”
Beating Duke 17-12 on April 8 helped the Fighting Irish get back their game.
“The Duke game was the second one after our UVa game, so I think that the way we came out with the confidence did volumes for us,” said Fake.
“It got us back our confidence that we belonged with those two other big teams.”
Returning to the NCAA tournament with just two losses and seeded third, Notre Dame played with confidence, topping Utah 20-7 in a first round contest and then edging Johns Hopkins 12-9 in the quarterfinals to reach championship weekend at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pa.
“In terms of playing, it was just keeping with the present. Just in general we had been having so much fun all year,” said Fake.
“The guys were so excited. It is weird for me because when I was at Yale, we had never not been in the tournament. It was the same situation with them last year. It was so awesome to see the guys so excited just to make the tournament. After that first round, where we rolled Utah, we had a big test with Hopkins. We didn’t play great but we got the job done. There was just a ton of excitement, loving playing the game throughout the whole tournament.”
The Fighting Irish were excited to get round three against Virginia in the NCAA semis and finally got the job done against the Cavaliers, prevailing 13-12 in overtime.
“They were one of the best, most complete teams in recent years,” said Fake of second-seeded Virginia.
“We had the confidence to beat them, we knew especially going into that locker room, we are better than this team, we are the best team in the country. We are going to beat these guys, we just knew we were and we had the confidence. Even when we were down by two with five minutes left. We knew we were somehow going to get through and get it done.”
In the national championship game, Notre Dame found itself in another round rather as it faced a top-seeded Duke squad it had defeated twice in regular season action.
“The guys were just super confident. We overcame a Virginia team who we hadn’t been able to beat all year,” said Fake.
“We were like, this is your shot: it was three times a charm with Virginia. Notre Dame had lost twice to Duke in NCAA finals so it was the time. We were so thankful to have the opportunity to play on Memorial Day, we were so excited, It was loving the game of lacrosse and it all turned out well.”
Fake helped key a stifling defensive effort against the Blue Devils in the final as Notre Dame built a 6-1 halftime lead.
“I think the defense played well, the offense got their job done,” said Fake, who put the clamps on Duke superstar attacker Brennan O’Neill, holding him scoreless in the first half and limiting him to one goal on the day.
“It was probably an unseen ever before performance from Liam Entenmann. I think he has got to be considered as one of the best goalies in the world right now. He is incredible.”
In the second half, the high-powered Blue Devils rallied to knot the contest at 7-7 with 1:01 left in the third quarter, but the Irish responded by outscoring Duke 6-2 over the rest of the contest to win 13-9 and end the spring with a 14-2 record.
“They had their run and they came back to 7-7,” recalled Fake.
“As soon as they did that, I just turned to the other guys and said, ‘Alright, it is 0-0. It is a fresh ballgame now, let’s win this new game’ — so that is what we did.”
As the game ended, Fake enjoyed watching his Notre Dame teammates launch into a raucous celebration of their first national crown and ending the drought for their long-time coach Corrigan.
“When that final horn goes off, the senior teammates who had never experienced something like that before crying; they were so elated,” said Fake, who had two ground balls and one caused turnover against Duke to end the spring with 29 ground balls and 13 caused turnovers.
“It was something that was on all of our minds, even the first year transfers. Seeing what coach Corrigan has put into Notre Dame lacrosse, he has been there for 35 years. It is just seeing the alumni base and how much love they have for him; just being able to do this for him and for Notre Dame was such a special thing.”
On and off the field, Fake enjoyed a special year in South Bend.
“I was in the masters of science and business analytics program; it is a one-year program and was an incredible experience for me,” said Fake, who made the NCAA All-Tournament team and was named a third-team All-American, earning his fifth All-American honor.
“It was challenging, it had a lot of coding programming that I really love. I got super lucky with that program. I got super lucky with the guys on the team, the football experience at the school, and the lacrosse experience. It was the perfect culmination of a career for me.”
Getting drafted by the Waterdogs of the Premier Lacrosse League in early May, Fake is getting the chance to continue his lacrosse career on the professional level. He made his PLL debut on June 16 when he had one ground ball and one caused turnover as the Waterdogs topped the Atlas 19-18.
“I was very excited to be drafted; at that time I knew that I still had a bigger job to do in front of me,” said Fake, who will also be working as a quantitative analyst for a commodities trading firm in Southport, Conn.
“I haven’t experienced it yet. I was thinking how cool it will be just to go to all of these different places. I am really excited to have lacrosse still in my picture and still have that goal that I could work towards everyday. That means a lot to me.”