June 10, 2004
Attackman Matt Howell (Huntington, N.Y./Huntington H.S.) and defenseman Brennan Creaney (Baltimore, Md./Loyola Blakefield H.S.), a pair of all-conference honorees who recently finished their four-year careers on the University of Notre Dame men’s lacrosse team, will take part in the 63rd Annual North/South Classic presented by STX and Geico on Saturday at 3 p.m. (EDT) at Nazareth College in Rochester, N.Y. The all-star game features the top graduating seniors in Division I collegiate men’s lacrosse.
Howell and Creaney were selected as part of the 26-member roster for the North team, and both will sport the same numbers they wore as Irish players, #1 and #7, respectively.
It is the fourth time since 1998 that Notre Dame has had multiple players selected to participate in the showcase. The Irish duo brings the all-time total of Notre Dame players in the game to 17, while Kevin Corrigan served as head coach of the 1993 North squad. The last Irish players to participate in the North/South Classic were midfielder John Flandina and defenseman A.J. Wright in 2002.
Howell, who won a starting job as a sophomore but missed 18 games over the next three years due to injury, finished his career with 40 goals and 37 assists for 77 points, as well as 45 ground balls. He was a first-team all-Great Western Lacrosse League selection in 2004 as the second-most-effective weapon for Notre Dame’s offense, which finished the season second in Division I in scoring. Howell was second on the team in points (37) and assists (17) and was tied for second in goals (20). His average of 3.36 points per game was second to teammate Pat Walsh (Wantagh, N.Y./Wantagh H.S.) in the GWLL and ranked 17th in Division I. He was third in the conference and 20th in the country in assists (1.55). Howell had a team-high 10 goals in league action and also paced the nationally-ranked Irish EMO with five tallies and scored 14 times in home games, more than any of his teammates. Howell had at least one point in every game in which he played in 2004 and had two or more in 10 of 11. He also had three or more points on six occasions and scored a goal in 10 of 11 games. Howell was named the GWLL Player of the Week on April 20 after having 12 points and five ground balls in two league tilts. He posted career highs with five goals and eight points against Fairfield, missing the school record for points in a game by one. Howell converted on 35.1% of his shots (20-57) and led Irish attackmen with 23 ground balls, one more than he picked up in his first three seasons combined.
Creaney was a starter in 23 contests during his career, including every one in which he appeared over the last two seasons. Creaney, who was a second-team all-GWLL honoree, tied for the team lead with 43 ground balls in 2004 to finish with 99 during his career. He led Notre Dame in ground balls in home games and GWLL contests, with 24 in both. Creaney anchored an Irish defensive unit that surrendered just 7.00 goals per game in league play and only 7.25 over the final eight contests. He was important in helping Notre Dame post the top back-to-back defensive performances in school history, holding Dartmouth to three goals and Air Force to just two in consecutive contests in early April. Creaney also was a key part of Notre Dame holding its opponents scoreless for stretches of more than 25 minutes on four separate occasions: 28:47 vs. #17 Ohio State, 40:37 vs. Dartmouth, 48:14 at Air Force, and 25:42 vs. Fairfield. The Irish defense also held #13 Hofstra without a shot (ND took 17) in the first quarter of a 19-11 victory in March.
A total of eight GWLL players will be in action on Saturday, though Howell will be the lone attackman from the league. Other participants will be co-GWLL players of the year goalie Tony Russo and defenseman Greg Bice of Ohio State, as well as midfielder Jeff Biggs and defenseman Cory Vann of Denver and the Fairfield duo of defenseman Nate Bauers and faceoff specialist Peter Vlahakis.
In all, 21 players whom Howell and Creaney competed against during the regular season will be in action in the North/South Classic.
Notre Dame finished the season 7-5 (4-1 GWLL) and just missed the 16-team NCAA Championship despite being ranked 11th in the Inside Lacrosse media poll and 12th by the United States Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association. The Irish lost 9-8 on a goal with 12 seconds remaining on March 31 against Ohio State in what proved to be the game that would determine the GWLL champion and the conference’s automatic qualifier to the NCAAs. Notre Dame, riding a five-game winning streak at the time, just missed a major upset in its final game, but the Irish were unable to hold an 8-7 lead in the final minute at #3 Maryland, eventually falling 9-8 in double overtime.
Notre Dame loses 10 seniors to graduation, but will return six starters, as well as a number of other experienced contributors, for the 2005 campaign.