April 20, 2016

By John Heisler

Just two years and 54 days ago, the Notre Dame men’s lacrosse program began its journey in the Atlantic Coast Conference, in the same place-Chapel Hill, North Carolina-where the Irish play Saturday.

Two seasons back, Notre Dame played its first conference game on Fetzer Field-and was it ever a barnburner. The second-rated Tar Heels led 4-0, 5-1 after one period, and later 7-2. The Irish fought back with five straight goals late in the third period and early in the fourth-the first and last of those five by Matt Kavanagh-to tie the game at eight. After North Carolina scored at 13:09 of the fourth period, the Irish responded with consecutive goals by Conor Doyle, Jack Near and freshman Sergio Perkovic and held on to win 11-10.

That game marked the first win of Shane Doss’ career, as he came off the bench as a freshman to relieve Conor Kelly, making 10 saves versus six goals allowed while playing the final 51:06.

The victory also ignited a brief (almost three full seasons now) yet ultra-impressive run in ACC competition by the Irish:

  • In 2014 Notre Dame won the ACC Championship in Philadelphia, with one-goal victories over Maryland and Syracuse.
  • In 2015 the Irish claimed the ACC regular-season title with a perfect 4-0 record in league games.
  • In 2016 Notre Dame has a chance for a second straight ACC regular-season crown if the Irish can defeat North Carolina Saturday. Then next week it’s on to Kennesaw, Georgia, the first-time home of the ACC Championship.

Since the start of that 2014 campaign, Notre Dame stands 12-5 in all competition against ACC members-9-3 in regular-season contests. The Irish have not dropped a regular-season conference clash since a loss to Maryland on April 19, 2014, in South Bend. Notre Dame’s record on ACC opponent home fields in those three seasons combined is 4-1 (the lone loss a one-goal affair at Syracuse in 2014).

Here’s more on the Irish:

The Sexton family affair-Notre Dame lacrosse rosters just happen to include senior Rachel Sexton on the fifth-ranked Irish women’s team and her sophomore brother John on the top-rated Irish men’s team. They list Sudbury, Massachusetts, as their hometown.

Here’s what their recent week included:

  • April 10-John played a key role in limiting Duke senior scoring star Myles Jones (the leading active career scorer in the nation, Jones had accounted for 11 points in his most recent outing versus North Carolina) to a single assist in Notre Dame’s 8-6 come-from-behind win over Duke at Arlotta Stadium.
  • April 11-John was named the ACC co-defensive player of the week.
  • April 13-John snared a career-high seven ground balls (including a crucial one on the overtime face-off), caused two turnovers and also scored a goal on a length-of-the-field dash in Notre Dame’s 8-7 overtime win against 19th-rated Marquette at Arlotta Stadium.
  • April 15-John was named the Baltimore Sun men’s lacrosse player of the week.
  • April 16-Rachel scored the game-winning goal in Note Dame’s come-from behind win over 17th-rated Duke at Arlotta Stadium (sound familiar?). She finished with a hat trick on Senior Day, including the game-winner 1:55 into the extra session (her 111th career goal) for the 11-10 Irish victory.

Irish head coach Kevin Corrigan on the matchup: “I’m sure our guys have some awareness of the conference situation and the polls, but it’s not something we talk about. We talk about the challenge of the game and this team at this time of the year-who we are and who they are. Mainly, since we are coming off a bye weekend, we’re talking about ourselves and how we get better. We’ve tried to use the time we’ve had off to do some self-analysis and reflection and then correction to make ourselves better. At this stage of the season we think we have a pretty good idea of who North Carolina is.”

Corrigan on the stretch run-“What’s different is you are managing the health–and the mental health-of your team in terms of mileage. You don’t want to be tired and beat down. The bye week should help us with that in the long term. In the short term you take off a few days and you feel it a little bit, so we’ll see how we come out of that. You’re always concerned at this time of year about how your team is holding up overall. This is also coming into a stressful time of the year with the end of the semester and exams and that plays into it.”

Corrigan on the big picture-“We don’t talk at all about seeding and the playoff stuff. The way I look at it, when you get into tournaments at the end, everybody’s good and you’ve got to beat good teams, so what difference does it make where you’re seeded or where anybody else is seeded? If you get into the NCAA Championship, to win you’ve got to beat four good teams. So we don’t even talk about any of that other stuff – it’s kind of irrelevant to me. We just want to get ourselves to be the best team we can be and playing as well as we can be. We do know how well we prepare for other teams and at this time you know more about the teams you play. So you have a chance to be better if your team has learned how to prepare. That’s what we worry about and talk about, as opposed to where we sit in the ACC.”

Corrigan on his team-“We’re still a work in progress in some ways – we scored eight goals in our last game. We need to keep getting better offensively and we know that. We’ve also got to play the games we’re in-and we’re playing a lot of low-possession games. People are holding onto the ball, and you can get yourself in trouble trying to make the game something it’s not. We only have control over so many factors. Sometimes we have to play the game as it’s dealt to us, in that sense. I think our guys have done a nice job of managing the games to this point-being able to force some issues with our riding but really controlling the game by virtue of playing good defense and not getting ourselves in bad positions offensively.”

Corrigan on what he’s learned through 10 games-“We’ve had a lot of young guys play significant roles and you never know how that’s going to work out. That’s been a pleasant outcome. We’ve handled the adversity we’ve had-losing our starting defenseman, our best short-stick defensive middie, losing two of our top midfielders-everybody has those things they go through in a year and we’ve handled those well to date. Now we try to get everybody back and humming.”

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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