March 10, 2016
Weeks, months, even years may go by in a given sport without a matchup between the top two teams in the nation.
Don’t tell that to men’s lacrosse fans in South Bend, Indiana.
The game Sunday between 4-0 Notre Dame and 5-0 Denver (5:30 p.m. EDT) qualifies as the third such contest played at Arlotta Stadium on the University of Notre Dame campus in less than a calendar year.
Last season (March 28) the second-rated Irish met top-ranked Syracuse at Arlotta-and Notre Dame prevailed 13-12 in double overtime. The win boosted the Irish into the top spot in the polls.
Three weeks later (April 18), second-ranked North Carolina came to South Bend to meet the top-rated Irish-with Notre Dame again winning (15-14).
This time, the polls disagree on who is the best team in the country.
The Inside Lacrosse (media) and Lacrosse magazine polls say it’s Notre Dame (with Denver second).
The United States Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association (USILA) poll of coaches says it’s Denver (with Notre Dame second).
Call it whatever you like:
— #1 Notre Dame (Inside Lacrosse) vs. #1 Denver (USILA)
— #1 Notre Dame vs. #2 Denver (both Inside Lacrosse)
— #1 Denver vs. #2 Notre Dame (both USILA)
Here are five reasons to buy a ticket (or watch it live on ESPNU):
1. Sean Rogers, Jim Marlatt, Zach Miller, Wesley Berg-Those four players-the first two wore Irish uniforms, the last two wore Pioneer colors-were the heroes of the previous four overtime outcomes between Notre Dame and Denver (all among the past five games between these teams), each managing game-winning OT goals. Miller is the only one of the quartet who will be on the field Sunday, so take a guess on who might play that role in 2016.
2. The Irish defense has gotten better and better-The Notre Dame defense began the 2016 season allowing seven goals to Georgetown in a 12-7 victory. Every game since that opener the Irish have allowed one less goal than in the previous game. The Irish currently rank second nationally in team defense (5.5 goals per game), with goaltender Shane Doss rating second nationally in both save percentage and goals-against average.
3. Irish coach Kevin Corrigan’s take-“These are two very good teams that have played great games in the past five years. All the games have been well-played, highly-contested. We need to find a way to make the plays at the end of the game that you need to win. They are an excellent team, they are playing with great confidence. It’s probably as challenging a game as we will have this year. It’s great to have the top two teams play at any part of the season. It’s not part of our mindset-we go into it the same way we did against Maryland-we know we’re playing a excellent team that we know is going to be a great challenge and we’ve got to find a way to make plays.”
4. Can Perkovic Do It Again?-While Denver won the most recent meeting between these teams, fans could not stop talking about what Irish midfielder Sergio Perkovic accomplished. It lasted maybe 10 minutes in real time, yet it likely goes down as the one of the most stunning individual performances in the history of college men’s lacrosse. The official score sheet said Perkovic scored five goals in Notre Dame’s 2015 NCAA Men’s Lacrosse Championship national semifinal game against Denver in Philadelphia. A close look at the scoring summary showed that all five goals came in the final period. An even closer inspection indicates that the five goals came over a span of 5:57 in clock time. That would be an amazing accomplishment by a team (especially at the NCAA national semifinal level, against a team that ultimately won the title), much less for an individual.
5. Rankings aside, this has developed into maybe the most hotly contested intersectional rivalry in the country–No teams in the country have played four overtime contests in a span of five meetings the way the Irish and Pioneers have (Ohio State and UMBC did that once upon a time, as did North Carolina and Navy). On paper this has the potential to be the best game so far in the 2016 college lacrosse season.
The University of Notre Dame men’s lacrosse team pursues excellence on and off the field through the three pillars in which the program is built: Character, Culture & Community. These three foundational values guide the promise of the program, which is to provide its student-athletes with the most compelling and enriching experience in all of college athletics. Through academics, competition, service and travel, the program aims to immerse its players in situations that enhance their student-athlete experience to help them become the people, students and teammates they aspire to be.
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