Irish Rematch with Duke Keeps Wheels Turning

April 28, 2016

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By John Heisler

By the time the fourth-rated Notre Dame and 13th-ranked Duke men’s lacrosse teams take the field Friday night to face off in an Atlantic Coast Conference Championship semifinal in Kennesaw, Georgia, it will be a little more than 19 days since the two rivals last met.

That game produced an 8-6 victory for the Irish in South Bend, with Notre Dame never leading until the last five minutes of the contest. Both teams have played twice since that first meeting.

So imagine all the analysis that has transpired this week for Irish coach Kevin Corrigan and his Blue Devil counterpart, John Danowski.

Here are a few of the subjects they’ve likely studied and questions they’ve likely tried to answer:

— How in the world did the Irish stop Myles Jones? The Duke middie had just come off an 11-point performance against North Carolina. Then and now he qualifies as the NCAA’s top career scorer among active players. The Irish held him to a single assist–and few other teams this season have been able to do that. (Harvard also limited him to an assist; Lehigh limited him to a goal.) How will the two teams adjust this time around?

— Duke currently ranks second nationally in scoring (14.0 goals per game), fourth in shot percentage (.371) and fifth in scoring margin (plus 4.53 goals). In the two games before and the two games after facing Notre Dame, the Blue Devils have averaged 15.5 goals per game. So how did the Irish hold that unit to six goals three weeks back when no other team has kept Duke from scoring less than nine (the Blue Devils managed nine tallies against Air Force and Harvard)?

— Duke is among four teams that have limited the Irish to eight goals, their lowest total in 2016? Can the Blue Devils do that again, and will that be good enough to win?

— Notre Dame’s two best offensive outbursts of the spring happened within its last four games (17 goals at Syracuse, 15 at North Carolina). Will the Irish find a way to continue that proficiency on that end of the field?

— The Irish defense hiccupped Saturday in Chapel Hill, allowing 17 goals, almost three times its 10-game season average–including eight in the final period alone when Notre Dame had not even been giving up an average of seven in its entire individual games. Will Danowski find what allowed North Carolina to be so successful when those 10 previous opponents came nowhere close to that?

— Each of the last six of Notre Dame’s series wins against Duke took place in the regular season, including four early-season games played in the month of February. Five of the last six Duke series wins occurred in postseason play–either the NCAA or ACC championships. Can Notre Dame reverse that trend?

— A year ago in another ACC Championship contest Duke handed the Irish a five-goal loss for the largest Notre Dame goal deficit in any game in 2015. Can Corrigan’s charges change the karma this time around?

Here’s more on the Irish as they head to the Atlanta area:

1.Irish getting it done in classroom — The Notre Dame men’s lacrosse program scored a perfect 1,000 in Academic Progress Rate figures released last week by the NCAA, marking the fifth straight year the Irish men’s lacrosse program hit the 1,000 mark.

Notre Dame ranked as one of only three Division I institutions to hit the 1,000 mark in men’s lacrosse–joining Bucknell and Penn.

The NCAA also presents public recognition awards to teams that graduate their athletes in the top 10 percent within their sport–and Notre Dame has earned one of those in seven consecutive seasons in men’s lacrosse.

In NCAA Graduation Success Rate figures announced each fall, the lacrosse squad has scored 96 in each of the last four seasons–in each case ranking tied for first among all NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision institutions. In the previous four years (2008 through 2011) the Irish men’s lacrosse program scored 100.

The current Irish men’s lacrosse roster contains two CoSIDA Academic All-America nominees for 2016 in senior Matt Landis and junior Sergio Perkovic. Landis also was awarded an honorary Atlantic Coast Conference Postgraduate Scholarship in February.

2. Two . . . four . . . five — No, it’s not an area code, it’s the three-year progression of All-ACC Team selections for Notre Dame in its first three years in the Atlantic Coast Conference:

2014 (2) — A Matt Kavanagh, D Steve O’Hara
2015 (4) — A Matt Kavanagh, D Matt Landis, M Sergio Perkovic, A Conor Doyle
2016 (5) — A Matt Kavanagh, D Matt Landis, M Sergio Perkovic, G Shane Doss, LSM John Sexton

3. Short but successful — This marks only the third time Notre Dame has participated in the four-team ACC Championship. Yet the Irish already own one title. Here’s the Irish history in the event:

— 2014 at PPL Park, Chester, Pennsylvania
Semifinal (April 25): #4 seed/#9 ranked Notre Dame, 6, #1 seed/#5 ranked Maryland 5
(Sophomore Matt Kavanagh scored game-winner for Irish with six seconds left . . . That marked Notre Dame’s only lead of night . . . Irish fought back from 4-1 third-period deficit . . . Irish held leading Terp scorer Mike Chanenchuk without a point for first time in 2014)
Final (April 27): #4 seed/#9 ranked Notre Dame 15, #3 seed/#4 ranked Syracuse 14
(Irish went on 6-0 run in third period, including back-to-back goals by Matt Kavanagh, while holding Orange scoreless for 13 minutes . . . Jim Marlatt had three goals and an assist–Conor Doyle had five points . . . ACC All-Tournament Team included Kavanagh (MVP), Doyle, D Steve O’Hara and G Conor Kelly)

— 2015 at PPL Park, Chester, Pennsylvania
Semifinal (April 24): #4 seed/#6 ranked Duke 13, #1 seed/#1 ranked Notre Dame 8
(Duke ended six-game Irish win streak . . . Notre Dame had season-low eight goals and did not score until 8:58 of second period . . . Duke scored first five goals of third period then Notre Dame notched six straight goals in six minutes in final period)

4. Irish scorers in previous ACC Championship — Here’s what current Irish players have done in the first two Notre Dame ACC Championship appearances in terms of scoring (goals/assists/points):

Name Maryland/2014 Syracuse/2014 Duke/2015 Total
Matt Kavanagh 1/0/1 4/2/6 1/1/2 6/3/9
Sergio Perkovic 0/1/1 2/0/2 2/0/2 4/1/5
Eddy Lubowicki 1/0/1 1/0/1 0/0/0 2/0/2
Mikey Wynne NA NA 1/0/1 1/0/1
Cole Riccardi 0/0/0 0/0/0 0/1/1 0/1/1

Here are Irish goaltending numbers from those three games:
— Maryland/14: Conor Kelly, W, 5 goals against, 12 saves
— Syracuse/14: Conor Kelly, W, 14 goals against, 8 saves
— Duke/15: Shane Doss (34:47), L, 7 goals against, 5 saves; Conor Kelly (25:13), 6 goals against, 4 saves

John Heisler, senior associate athletics director at the University of Notre Dame, has been part of the Fighting Irish athletics communications team since 1978. A South Bend, Indiana, native, he is a 1976 graduate of the University of Missouri School of Journalism and a member of the College Sports Information Directors of America Hall of Fame. He is editor of the award-winning “Strong of Heart” series.