Feb. 25, 2016
The South Bend weather outside remains a bit frightful, but the top-rated University of Notre Dame men’s lacrosse squad soldiers on.
The Irish play only two midweek games in 2016, and this represents the only week in which Notre Dame head coach Kevin Corrigan’s club plays three games in a space of eight days.
(The other Wednesday assignment comes April 13 versus Marquette–three days after a home date versus Duke and ahead of an open weekend that involves 10 days between games for the Irish.)
So this week becomes Notre Dame’s biggest test of the spring from a physical and conditioning standpoint–and yet those three games in eight days give Corrigan, his staff and team a great early snapshot of their personnel.
Here’s what to look for as the Irish play host to Detroit Saturday:
1. There’s more to the Irish attack than Kavanagh and Wynne–Graduated attack and 2015 captain Conor Doyle (second-leading Notre Dame scorer in 2015 with 31 goals, 20 assists) qualified as one of the unsung heroes of the 2015 Irish team that played in the NCAA national semifinals. In his place comes Eddy Lubowicki, a savvy senior who has played mostly a supporting role until this season. Lubowicki had never scored more than two goals in a game before for the Irish and scored only three all of last season. But his four goals Wednesday against Bellarmine suggest he can be a key factor moving forward, even if fellow attackmen Matt Kavanagh and Mikey Wynne earn more of the attention in the headlines and from opposing defenses.
2. Notre Dame has midfield depth–The first half Wednesday against Bellarmine displayed how many midfielders can play at a high level for the Irish. While standout junior Sergio Perkovic again paced the team in shots (with seven, producing one goal), Notre Dame got first-half goals from midfielders Ben Pridemore, Bobby Gray and Brendan Collins (Collins added a second tally in the final period), plus assists from midfielders Austin Gaiss, Kyle Trolley and Timmy Phillips (one in each half). Collins added an assist on the last of Lubowicki’s four goals. That comes after the Pridemore/Gray/Collins trio combined for six goals in all of 2015. The Irish continue to get solid defensive play from midfielders Nick Koshansky and John Sexton (three ground balls each versus Bellarmine). “That can be a strength for us–we have a lot of people who can make plays,” says Corrigan.
3. The Irish seniors remember 2013–The Irish have a limited history with Detroit, but that one previous meeting has to linger at least a bit in the minds of the seniors on the current Notre Dame team (and the Detroit seniors). The Titans led that NCAA Championship first-round game at Arlotta Stadium 7-3 after three periods before a furious rally in the final 15 minutes enabled Notre Dame to survive after six consecutive goals in that final period.
4. Don’t expect a shootout–The Notre Dame-Detroit score in 2013 was no accident, nor was the verdict Wednesday between the Irish and Bellarmine. Many teams are anxious to control the pace against Notre Dame and not try to engage in a shootout they may not be able to win. That happened to a great extent Wednesday as Bellarmine forced seven third-period Irish turnovers and limited Notre Dame to three third-quarter shots and no goals over a 21-minute stretch. Detroit likely is not interested in running up and down the field with the Irish and ending up in a 19-14 game.
5. Kevin Corrigan’s take–“Detroit has historically been a really creative team on offense with a lot of skilled players. The challenge will be very similar to what it was Wednesday (against Bellarmine). Detroit will probably play a lot like Bellarmine did, slow the ball down and control the possessions and try to make us play a lot of defense.”
6. Off to the races–After Notre Dame’s matchup with Detroit Saturday, it gets really interesting, with the next three Irish challenges all against opponents this week ranked among the top 11 teams in the country–first #5 Maryland (March 5 in Costa Mesa, California, in the Pacific Coast Shootout), then #1 Denver on March 13 (the Irish currently rate #1 in the Inside Lacrosse media poll and the Lacrosse magazine poll, while the Pioneers are atop the USILA poll of coaches this week) and finally #11 Virginia on March 19. Both the Denver and Virginia games are set for Arlotta Stadium (and both televised live on ESPNU).
For full release, please view the Complete Game Notes