Sophomore goalie Shane Doss made 11 saves against Ohio State.

IRISH EXTRA: Irish Defensive Pieces All Come Together Versus Buckeyes

March 22, 2015

When players from the Ohio State University men’s lacrosse team ran out onto the Arlotta Stadium turf for Saturday’s game against the University of Notre Dame, Buckeyes’ players were shouting out, “O” for Ohio State.

Notre Dame’s defense answered with a different kind of “O,” the kind that lights up on the scoreboard.

Coach Kevin Corrigan’s No. 3-ranked Fighting Irish posted the second shutout in school history, stunning No. 15 Ohio State 9-0 before a spirited and packed Arlotta Stadium.

Notre Dame’s shutout marked the second in its storied men’s lacrosse history. The other Irish shutout came in 1984, a 15-0 romp against Mount Union.

Ohio State suffered its first shutout since a 21-0 blasting in 1999 at the hands of Virginia. The Buckeyes have only been shut out seven times in their 63-year history–once in 1999, once in 1987, and five times from 1954 through 1964.

Corrigan’s crew posted only the sixth shutout in NCAA men’s lacrosse since 2007.

Notre Dame improved to 5-1. The Irish play host to top-ranked Syracuse at noon next Saturday. Ohio State, which upset No. 5 Denver 13-11 last Saturday, is 7-3.

“I don’t think I’ve ever had a shutout in my whole career playing lacrosse,” sophomore defender Garrett Epple, who forced four of the 14 turnovers that the relentless Irish defense caused. “I just kept looking up at the scoreboard and kept seeing that zero, so it was getting exciting and nerve-wracking, too. We got it done, which was the good part.”

When Notre Dame’s offense wasn’t dominating possession, the Irish defense swarmed on the Buckeyes. The Irish kept the Buckeyes from getting point-blank shots.

When Ohio State did manage a shot, the Irish goalies fired back.

Shane Doss came up with 11 saves, and Conor Kelly subbed in with 4:25 left and the Irish down a player due to penalty. Kelly came up with two sensational saves to keep the Buckeyes empty-handed.

“Conor comes in, and I apologized to him,” Corrigan said. “I said, ‘I hate to put anybody in man down,’ but we had wanted to get him in and it was the only break we had to do it. I apologized to him and put him in, and he comes up with a phenomenal save on that.”

Doss said the fourth quarter was particularly intense, as the Buckeyes were frantic to avoid the shutout.

“It was a little bit of weight off my shoulders,” Doss said about getting subbed out with the Irish owning a commanding 9-0 lead. “I felt really bad for Conor Kelly having to go in there a man down and try to keep the shutout going, but he made two awesome saves and kept it going for the team. He did great. There was definitely a lot of pressure going on in the fourth quarter. I was kind of glad they got me out of there.”

Corrigan said the Buckeyes arrived at Arlotta on the heels of a challenging stretch of their schedule. After the victory against Denver, the Buckeyes won a match Tuesday against Towson on the road.

Still, the Irish defense never let the Buckeyes get into a rhythm offensively.

“Our guys did a great job of not giving them anything that gives them the energy to stay in the game, when we couldn’t separate for a long time,” Corrigan said.

Notre Dame’s intelligent, fundamentally sound attack was too much for the Buckeyes, which limited Ohio State’s offensive opportunities.

“We were smart on offense,” Corrigan said. “We didn’t have a lot of bad possessions. That also helps the defense. You’re not spending the whole game on the defensive end of the field, because your offense is not just scoring some goals, but it’s really doing a good job with possessions. If you play bad offense, you give up transition–and we didn’t give up any transition. If you play bad offense and spend too much time on defense, you get worn down and you start to make mistakes.

“Shane was there every time our defense didn’t do what it needed to do. If we gave up a good shot, he made a big save. Every time. Not a lot, but every single time. That’s pretty special.”

Doss said the Irish shutout was a team effort.

“We have three guys in close defense (Matt Landis, Epple and Edwin Glazener) who know exactly what they’re doing, and they can tell other guys on the field what they’re doing. A lot of defensive middies and long poles did a great job and helped the defense,” Doss said of the Irish defense. “We work really great as a team on the defensive side. (Assistant) Coach (Gerry) Byrne has been teaching us the fundamentals from day one.

“I think we have a nice combination of a couple of things. We have some guys who are really smart, some really great athletes and more guys with great stick skills. When it all comes together like that, we can do a lot of great things.”

Epple helped spearhead the Irish effort on defense.

“We just stuck to the game plan, playing fundamental team defense,” Epple said. “There was a lot of communication, which was something we harped on all week with the coaches. We just came out and really outplayed them, every aspect of the game. We were all over ground balls, which was a big part of the game.

“We just keep getting better and better, every game, week to week. We have athletic guys, we have smart guys . . . we’re figuring out who we are. Today was a good example of what we can do. We still need to get better. If we play as a team, we can do great things.”

— Curt Rallo, special correspondent