Feb. 12, 2015
The University of Notre Dame men’s lacrosse team is hoping that one to two percent can move the Fighting Irish from No. 2 to No. 1 in 2015.
For a program that has been to Championship Weekend three times in the last five seasons, and has finished just shy of winning it all twice, including last season, the final on-field accomplishment left is to hoist the ultimate hardware on Memorial Day.
Notre Dame isn’t trying to reinvent the wheel in 2015; the Fighting Irish are focusing on being one to two percent better in everything they do.
“We have been consistently good the last few years, but we are asking how we can get better,” Fighting Irish head coach Kevin Corrigan says. “I don’t think you take quantum leaps at this point. You’re just looking for every edge you can find and every edge you can get. It’s not one to two percent overall that we’re looking for, although that might be the cumulative total, we’re looking in every area of what we do and how we can get just a little bit better.
“Is it through more film work? Is it through more diligence on the field? Is it through taking care of ourselves better off the field? Is it through making sure we’re doing the right thing off the field so that we come to the field every day to be our best? There are a lot of different ways we’re looking at this and trying to find one to two percent in every area, and there’s always at least that and we’re trying to get that into our guys’ minds.”
The Fighting Irish, the defending ACC champion and consensus preseason No. 2 team in the national polls, welcome back eight starters from last season’s squad that fell to Duke, 11-9, in the national title game. That veteran corps will be combined with a freshman class that is ranked second nationally by Inside Lacrosse.
“We have a lot of guys back who’ve been part of our success over the past couple of years,” Corrigan, who is entering his 27th season at the helm of the Fighting Irish program, states. “We also have a lot of young guys who are coming in and competing and pushing those guys for their spots and playing time and adding different things to the mix. It’s a good mix of experience and some veteran leadership, but with young guys who are talented and going to push to get on the field and make us a better team.
“We’ve had a consistent level of play and a consistent level in our recruiting to get the right guys here. But also, we’re a team based on sound fundamentals and good defense and good decision-making. If you can get a team to do those things consistently then those are timeless things and they don’t go away and diminish year to year.”
Another thing that shouldn’t diminish from last season is the Fighting Irish offense, which averaged close to 12 goals a game in 2014. Nearly 80 percent of last season’s point production returns, headlined by junior attackman Matt Kavanagh, who registered Fighting Irish records for points (75) and assists (33) in `14 en route to second-team All-America honors. Senior captain Conor Doyle joins Kavanagh in the attack. Doyle, a four-year starter, tallied 31 goals and 19 assists last season. Touted freshman Mikey Wynne, the No. 4-rated prospect according to Inside Lacrosse, likely will be the third starter in the attack.
Supplementing that group will be junior Eddy Lubowicki and senior Kyle Runyon. Lubowicki was a major reason why Notre Dame boasted the nation’s fourth-best man-up offense last season as he scored five man-advantage goals and assisted on eight others.
“One of the things that’s become clear during the preseason is that Eddy Lubowicki is going to be able to play at a high level this year and really help our attack unit,” Corrigan says. “With (Matt) Kavanagh and (Conor) Doyle as proven commodities and Mikey Wynne coming in as a guy who we think can offer a lot, it’s nice to know Eddy is going to be a part of that mix in a big way and give us some depth at that position.”
Sophomore Sergio Perkovic once again will be a key cog in the Fighting Irish midfield after depositing 28 goals, including 10 man-up scores, during his rookie campaign. The 6-foot-4, 214-pound preseason All-American nearly carried Notre Dame to the national title with five second-half goals, including three fourth-quarter tallies, in the furious rally that fell just short against the Blue Devils.
Perkovic’s projected mates on the first midfield are seniors Nick Ossello and Will Corrigan. Ossello registered 13 goals last season and he also is Notre Dame’s most experienced returning faceoff specialist with 314 career attempts (154 wins). Will Corrigan has been a steady midfield presence over the last three seasons, playing in all 50 games and notching 12 goals and 13 assists.
“Our first midfield has two guys who are a force to deal with in Sergio Perkovic and Nick Ossello,” Kevin Corrigan states. “They’ve both done a great job of being playmakers, but also playing good defense and riding and clearing intelligently and consistently. They are really rounding out their games besides just being a handful offensively. Will (Corrigan) is a great compliment to those guys. He does a great job of making sure those guys are getting the ball when and where they need it. He also is putting himself in a position to be opportunistic and take advantage of those situations and consistently make good decisions in the middle of the field, and play good defense. I think that group has been really solid through the preseason.”
Fifth-year senior and team captain Jim Marlatt will anchor the second midfield line. Marlatt, a two-time All-America honoree, is a talented veteran who has tallied 52 goals and 33 assists while playing in every game over the last three seasons. Juniors Trevor Brosco and Cole Riccardi are likely candidates to join Marlatt on the second midfield.
“Jim Marlatt is doing a great job of leading the second group,” Corrigan adds. “He’s really using his experience to get that group to play well. Trevor Brosco has been as consistent as anyone we have through the preseason and that’s a really good thing for him. He’s really improved in all of the things that he does, both off the ball and on the defensive end. Cole Riccardi has come in and had a really solid preseason.”
Notre Dame’s midfield depth isn’t limited to those first two lines. The Fighting Irish have strong short-stick middies, led by preseason All-American and team captain Jack Near, who contributed nine goals and six assists last season. Also bringing experience to that group is sophomore Nick Koshansky. Koshansky played in every game during his rookie campaign and competed with the Russian National Team over the summer at the Federation of International Lacrosse (FIL) World Championships in Denver. Brendan Collins, Inside Lacrosse’s No. 24-ranked freshman, also will see time as a short-stick.
“Jack Near is a pretty known commodity for us and Nick Koshansky has taken big strides from a year ago and he’s ready to play at a high level,” Corrigan says. “His (Koshansky) footwork for a big kid has really improved and I think he’s on the verge of becoming a very, very good player. We’ve been really pleased with how well Brendan Collins has played for a kid who came in at mid-year. And (sophomore) Bobby Collins has improved a ton from a year ago and is putting himself in the mix at that spot as well.
“The question is are we going to play two midfields, three midfields or are we going to play two, three or four d-middies. It’s hard to play four d-middies and three midfields and that’s how many guys we have that can play at that level. Those decisions will be tough to make, but they are going to be made from the best possible position and that is a position of strength. We know we have guys who can play at this level, we just have to figure out how we want that mixture to work.”
Senior Henry Williams and fifth-year senior Ryan Smith will resume their roles in the long-stick midfield rotation. Williams played in every game last season, while Smith competed in eight contests. Bringing some youth to the position will be freshman John Sexton and sophomore Pat Healy, who can also play close defense. Junior Thomas Stephan is another guy that can play up top or down low.
The Fighting Irish close defense boasts preseason All-Americans, and returning starters, Matt Landis, a junior, and Garrett Epple, a sophomore. Junior Edwin Glazener is entering his first season as a starter in addition to being the team’s new pregame bagpiper.
Corrigan is very high on his crop of goalies. Senior Conor Kelly and sophomore Shane Doss are back after sharing responsibilities last year. Kelly started 11 games, including the final eight contests of the season, while Doss earned seven starts during the middle portion of the campaign. The Irish also brought in talented freshman Owen Molloy.
“On a given day and from drill to drill, if you just dropped in and didn’t know who was who, you’d say, `Wow, that guy is really good,’ and you could be talking about any of the three of them,” Corrigan says. “They are terrific. I don’t think we’ve ever had a time where we’ve had three guys play at as high of a level as the three guys we have right now. Obviously we had Joey Kemp and Scott Rodgers together and then Scott Rodgers and John Kemp together, so we’ve had two guys play at a really high level like that, but we’ve never had three. It’s a fortunate situation.”
The Fighting Irish will need to call on that depth to tackle a schedule that features the other four squads ranked in the top-five of the Inside Lacrosse preseason poll. Notre Dame’s ledger features No. 1 Denver, No. 3 Duke, No. 4 Syracuse, No. 5 North Carolina and No. 9 Virginia. But Corrigan knows if you only focus on the rankings you’re bound to get a dose of reality along the way.
“The thing I know about college lacrosse these days is not that one through five are a lot different, but that 20 through 40 are a lot different,” the Fighting Irish head coach says. “There are no gimmies in Division I right now. There are too many good coaches and there are too many good players. People are doing a great job recruiting and finding the right guys for their program. The big challenge nowadays is that there is no such thing as a soft spot in your schedule. Teams may not be ranked as high, but they are capable of beating you and every team better appreciate that.”
As college lacrosse continues to get better across the board, the Fighting Irish hope steady improvement of their own can take them to the pinnacle of the sport.
— Sean Carroll, Assistant Athletic Media Relations Director
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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