Feb. 15, 2015
That plan lasted five minutes and 53 seconds into the Fighting Irish season opener against Georgetown on Saturday at Notre Dame’s Loftus Sports Center. Wynne put Notre Dame on the board when he rifled in a shot at the 9:07 mark of the first quarter.
By the time he snapped his wrists on a dagger with :29 left in the game to put the finishing touches on Notre Dame’s 14-12 victory against the Hoyas, Wynne had lit up the scoreboard six times.
Notre Dame opened its season with a victory for the 13th consecutive time.
Coach Kevin Corrigan’s Irish, who reached the national championship game last season, play at Michigan on Saturday and play host to Dartmouth at Arlotta Stadium on Feb. 28.
Wynne’s six goals fell one goal shy of the Notre Dame record for most goals in a game. His debut spelled defeat for the Hoyas, who are unranked but showed plenty of fight.
“I don’t think it’s ever easy for a freshman, but we’ve been doing this for a month, so we’ve known he’s capable for a long time,” Marlatt, a fifth-year senior and team captain, said of Wynne. “We wanted to keep him a secret. We didn’t want to let everybody know about him.”
Georgetown targeted Notre Dame All-America candidates Matt Kavanagh and Conor Doyle, hoping to limit Notre Dame’s firepower. Wynne exploited Georgetown’s shadowing of Kavanagh and Doyle, igniting an explosive Irish attack.
“(Wynne) earned our trust,” Marlatt said. “We saw it out there. We threw some dangerous passes to him, but we trust that he’s going to catch it and put it in the back of the net. He’s kind of our finisher inside. Kavanagh and Doyle are going to get so much attention, that Mikey’s going to be that third guy in. If he can consistently finish, it’s going to be huge. Six goals is awesome, but I don’t think anyone was surprised. If you’d been with us the past month, you’d know this was coming.”
Corrigan said that Wynne possesses a high lacrosse IQ, and has exceptional stick skills. Corrigan also loves the toughness and maturity that Wynne displays.
“About halfway through the pre-season, (Wynne) was really struggling,” Corrigan said. “The biggest thing we said to him was, ‘Look, you’re trying to do everything really well. Eventually, you’re going to do everything really well. Right now, we need you to do three things well – get ground balls, stay inside and be effective when you’re catching and putting the ball on cage, and riding.’
“He really got back to that this week,” Corrigan continued about Wynne. “That’s who he is for this year. He’ll grow a little bit beyond that this year, but in future years, he’s going to be a terrific all-around player, but we don’t need him to be that right now. He’s playing with two great players and three really good midfielders on both of our top midfield groups. We don’t need him to make plays all over the place. We just need him to make the plays within his range.”
Corrigan said that Wynne understands that he is a crease guy and thrives when his teammates set him up.
Seeming to be constantly in motion, Wynne played off of the slide and played to the space that the Hoyas allowed by focusing on Kavanagh and Doyle.
“It’s really easy when I play with guys like Matt Kavanagh and Conor Doyle,” Wynne said of his prolific production in his college debut. “They draw so much attention, so I’m just able to slide behind guys. When Kav or Doyle have the ball and they’re dodging, everybody is going to be paying attention. I just try and play off of their game and try and get open.”
Wynne credited Corrigan for helping him prepare for the transition to the college game.
“I was really curious about the college game,” Wynne said. “I wasn’t sure what the speed of the game was like. I wasn’t sure what the athletes were like. It was proved to me that everybody is awesome. The little plays that in high school, maybe you can take a play off, here, you have to work really hard on every play just to make the little plays. Everything counts.”
There were dazzling moments for the Irish in their opener.
Nick Ossello, a senior midfielder, turned in an exceptional effort to fire in a goal as he was falling down after a collision with a Georgetown defender.
Kavanagh stunned the Hoyas with a buzzer-beater blast, a shot that hit the net just :04 before the end of the second quarter to give the Irish an 8-6 lead at halftime.
Notre Dame hit Georgetown with a pair of lightning bolts in the fourth quarter to gain the upperhand after the Hoyas rallied from a three-goal deficit to tie the score at 11-11.
Sophomore midfielder Sergio Perkovic, who scored three goals, used a spin move to freeze the Georgetown defense and fire in a shot to put the Irish on top 12-11 at the 12:28 mark.
Eight seconds later, Wynne took a pass from Doyle and turned it into a 13-11 Irish edge.
While the scoreboard numbers made it look like a good day for the Irish, Corrigan looked beyond the bright lights with a coach’s vision.
Giving up 12 goals isn’t part of the Irish identity.
“We didn’t sustain any momentum all day long, and it’s because we kept giving away plays,” Corrigan said. “We missed a lot of ground balls. We were fundamentally unsound, defensively. That’s not something that’s very typical for us at all. We’ll have to get back and address it.
“I don’t need a game like this to learn that if we play poor fundamental lacrosse, we’re going to give up goals. We don’t give up 12 goals to anybody, much less in the season opener. It was not the defensive performance that we expect from our guys. We’ll get back and address that. It was a lot of little things. We gave up some unsettled plays. We don’t normally give up goals out of unsettled play. We got caught just being really lazy on some re-starts. We don’t usually get caught unprepared. We did some unsound fundamental things, poor positioning, poor communication.”
What did stand out for Corrigan was Notre Dame’s ability to answer.
“I liked that we kept coming back when they kept coming back,” Corrigan said. “We just kept making plays when we had to. That’s nice that our guys have the ability to do that. I like that, offensively, we were getting what we wanted all day long. Their goalie played well, and we missed some chippies. I’m going to say we missed five goals. You just can’t give away goals like that. I really felt, offensively, we were getting what we wanted for a large part of the game.
“Our guys kept their poise late in the game, and that’s good. That last possession was a really good one, to not just take time off the clock, but score a goal as well. I just think, we’ve got some depth, and we’re going to use that depth. Even if you look at our scoring. Mikey had six, but six other guys had goals, and that kind of depth is going to serve us well over the course of the year.”
— By Curt Rallo/special correspondent