April 12, 2016

By John Heisler

Consider this the men’s lacrosse equivalent of the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw versus the Cubs’ Jake Arrieta.

It’s the old Los Angeles Rams’ “Fearsome Foursome” on one side-and the Pittsburgh Steelers’ “Steel Curtain” on the other.

It’s Steph Curry trying to get to the rim against Bill Russell on one end of the floor and against Wilt Chamberlain on the other.

Maybe the Notre Dame-Marquette game Wednesday at Arlotta Stadium will turn into a goal-fest, but the chalk suggests otherwise.

After all, these are the two best teams in the country from a defensive standpoint-with some unheralded star power at the goaltending position and individual defenders to match.

Here’s what to watch:

1. Will the stop troops prevail?–Notre Dame’s Shane Doss often seems to reside in the Irish shadows of All-Americans Matt Kavanagh, Sergio Perkovic and Matt Landis. Yet he quietly and consistently has put together a top-flight season in the net-currently leading the country in goals-against average at 6.39 (and ranking second in save percentage at .603).

Meanwhile Marquette could send out junior Jimmy Danaher, who started six games for the Golden Eagles. He ranks second behind Doss in the goals-against category at 6.54. And yet Marquette went another direction, throwing sophomore Cole Blazer into the fire against fifth-ranked Villanova 10 days ago in his first career start. All Blazer did was limit the Wildcats (who came in ranked second nationally in scoring) to three goals (on 13 saves) in an 11-3 Marquette victory, and that made him the national defensive player of the week. He’s expected to start again against Notre Dame despite being hit in the shin by a shot early last weekend against St. John’s (the Golden Eagles came from behind to win 11-7).

Want more defense? The Irish trot out senior defender Matt Landis. He was the top defensive player in the country in 2015 according to the USILA-and he may well win the award again in 2016. He gets lots of assistance from returning close defense regulars Eddy Glazener and Garrett Epple, and the Irish get plenty of extra pressure from their midfield. For example, Irish defensive middie John Sexton this week was the ACC co-defensive player of the week based on his play against Duke.

Marquette depends on graduate student and long-stick midfielder Liam Byrnes, the preseason BIG EAST co-defensive player of the year. He played a big role in the Villanova game as Marquette held the Wildcats’ Jake Froccaro (he came in leading the country at 3.88 goals per game) to a single assist.

The Golden Eagles scored 13 goals against Robert Morris and 11 each against Quinnipiac, Villanova and St. John’s. Notre Dame soared at Syracuse with 17 goals and earlier notched 14 against Detroit and a dozen versus Georgetown. The NCAA statistics this week list Notre Dame 25th in scoring at 10.67 goals per game and Marquette 36th at 9.89. Golden Eagle junior midfielder Andy DeMichiei is coming off a Marquette-record seven-goal effort Saturday at St. John’s. (He had only 12 career goals coming in.)

For two teams with identical 8-1 records, it’s obvious where their bread is buttered.

2. Irish coach Kevin Corrigan on the matchup–“I think Marquette is a lot like us. When you watch them play, they manage all aspects of the game very well. Their team defense is excellent and they get contributions from every area of their team.”

3. Corrigan on his team-“We have not played consistently well, but we have competed consistently well. We need to handle the ball more cleanly.”

4. Weekday games have been horror stories for some big-name teams-Virginia lost to High Point back in February. Duke dropped midweek games to both Richmond and Air Force. Just last Tuesday undefeated Brown fell at the hands of Bryant.

Many coaches prefer to avoid potentially tricky midweek contests-though they do provide a preview of assignments like the Atlantic Coast Conference Championship and NCAA Championship Weekend when taking home a trophy requires winning twice in three days.

A week ago Notre Dame had seven full days of prep time in advance of its matchup against Duke. This week there are only two days for the Irish to do their homework before meeting Marquette.

“To prepare as well as we need to, the challenge is mental,” says Corrigan.

“In two days, you do a lot of film study and you don’t do much live on the field. You simply can’t do as much in terms of physical preparation, so it’s a different challenge.”

After the Marquette game, Notre Dame will have its biggest schedule break of the year, with nine days off until an April 23 assignment at North Carolina.

University of Notre Dame Athletics Communications contact:
John Heisler
Senior Associate Athletics Director
112 Joyce Center
Notre Dame, IN 46556
574-631-7516 (office)
574-532-0293 (cell)

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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