April 18, 2004
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – Playing in his final collegiate home game, senior A Matt Howell (Huntington, N.Y./Huntington H.S.) turned in the best performance of his career, scoring five times and dishing off three assists to end up one shy of the school record for points in a game, as the 14th-ranked University of Notre Dame men’s lacrosse team (7-4, 4-1 GWLL) beat Fairfield (5-7, 1-3 GWLL) 16-7 Sunday afternoon at Moose Krause Stadium. The Irish, who have won five in a row — including four by seven or more goals — finished 4-1 in the Great Western Lacrosse League for the third year in a row.
Howell set career highs in goals and points in coming up just shy of the Notre Dame record of nine points in a game, which has been done eight times, but not since 1995. John Olmstead accomplished the feat twice in 1988, while Mike Sullivan did it in ’90 and ’91, and all-time scoring leader Randy Colley turned in four nine-point games from ’93-95. Howell also was one off the record for most goals in a home game. Three players — Joe Franklin in 1986, Mike Quigley in 1990, and Jon Harvey in 2000 — have netted six in front of the home fans.
The Huntington, N.Y. native opened the scoring with an unassisted tally 1:08 into the contest and scored on a wraparound off an assist from senior M Owen Mulford (Ocean City, Md./Loyola Blakefield H.S.) to give the Irish a 7-4 advantage midway through the second quarter. Howell then scored the first two goals of the second half, first taking a pass from junior LSM Chris Richez (Freeport, N.Y./Freeport H.S.) for a goal 13 seconds after the opening faceoff and then tallying off a pass from sophomore A Pat Walsh (Wantagh, N.Y./Wantagh H.S.) three minutes later. Howell scored the final Irish goal of the day, which came off an assist from freshman A Brian Boyle (Derry, N.H./Pinkerton Academy) with 7:43 remaining in the game.
Howell first earned a spot in the starting lineup prior to the 2002 season but missed 15 games over the previous two campaigns prior to starting every game this season. He is second to Walsh this spring in points (37), goals (20), and assists (17) in ’04. Howell has six multiple-goal games this season after accomplishing the feat just five times over his first three campaigns.
Howell took just seven shots in the contest, hitting the post on Notre Dame’s first possession of the game and having freshman G Michael Krueger save an attempt on an Irish man-up chance in the fourth quarter in his only two unsuccessful tries.
After the Irish went up 2-0 early, the Stags scored three times in less than three minutes to take their only lead of the game, 3-2. Following a Fairfield goal that cut the lead to 7-5 with 6:45 remaining in the first half, Notre Dame held Fairfield scoreless for a 25:42 stretch spanning the final three periods, scoring eight straight goals to take control of the contest.
Notre Dame played without its entire first midfield, but got strong performances from a variety of players in its absence. Most notably, freshman M Lucius Polk (Washington, D.C./St. Albans H.S.) had two goals and an assist for the second game in a row after playing in just four of the first nine games of the season and not registering a point. Polk, who scored on half of his shots, notched a pair of points in 21 seconds in the first period to put the Irish ahead for good. He assisted on a Mulford score that tied the score at 3-3 with 4:14 left in the opening period. Senior M Nick Petcoff (Troy, Mich./Detroit Country Day H.S.) won the ensuing faceoff, picked up the ground ball and the Notre Dame possession led to Walsh finding Polk, who scored from the close left wing to give the Irish a 4-3 advantage. Polk scored again from Walsh early in the fourth to give Notre Dame its largest lead of the day, 15-5.
Walsh,who is tops in the GWLL and sixth nationally in scoring and assists, was held without a goal for the first time this season, as the Stag defense committed itself to denying him scoring chances. He nonetheless had three assists. Walsh has had at least three points in every game this season and leads the Irish in scoring (46 points), goals (21), and assists (25). Having played less than half of his collegiate career, he already ranks ninth in school history in career assists (57) and 18th in career scoring (98 points).
Notre Dame, which came into the week first in the GWLL and third in the nation in scoring, registered 12 or more goals for the fourth straight game and seventh time in 11 contests this season. The Irish are averaging 12.91 goals and outshot the Stags 57-26 on Sunday, including 18-4 in the opening period.
In all, 11 different players registered points for Notre Dame, while nine had multiple points. Senior A Dan Berger (Phoenix, Md./Boys’ Latin H.S.) finished his home career with the 21st multiple-goal game of his time at Notre Dame, including his seventh in ’04. His pair of goals brought his season total to 19, which is third on the Irish.
Junior M Colin Fatti (Skaneateles, N.Y./Skaneateles H.S.) took advantage of increased playing time, scoring his first two goals of the season, while taking six shots and picking up his first ground ball of ’04. He nearly netted a hat trick, as he also had one point-blank shot saved.
Four players — Mulford, Richez, Boyle, and senior M Steve Clagett (Chesapeake Beach, Md./DeMatha Catholic H.S.) — had a goal and an assist apiece, while sophomore M Matt Karweck (Penn Yan, N.Y./Penn Yan Academy) also had an assist. Sophomore M Drew Peters (Babylon, N.Y./Babylon H.S.) took advantage of a Fairfield turnover in the second period, singlehandedly clearing the ball and continuing his weave between Stag defenders and finishing with a fastbreak goal. It was his second score in three games after not garnering a point prior to that this season.
Notre Dame won the ground ball battle 45-38, as senior D Brennan Creaney (Baltimore, Md./Loyola Blakefield H.S.) picked up eight, the most by an Irish player in a game this season. Sophomore LSM Brandon Schultheis (Babylon, N.Y./Babylon H.S.) corralled six ground balls after having not picked one up in his career prior to Sunday. Freshman M Bill Liva (Bryn Mawr, Pa./Malvern Preparatory School) collected a season-high five.
The Stags came into the game leading the GWLL and ranking fifth in the nation with a .630 faceoff winning percentage, but were victorious on just 55.6% (17-27) against Notre Dame. Petcoff turned in one of his best performances in his final game at Krause Stadium, winning nine of 16 draws he took, setting season highs in both wins and attempts. Senior M Peter Vlahakis, the top faceoff man in the conference and fourth in the country, won 11 of 19 (.578), which was below his season average of .650. Notre Dame junior M Craig Bishko (West Islip, N.Y./West Islip H.S.) won three of his five attempts.
Notre Dame’s defense surrendered seven or fewer goals for the fifth time this season. The Irish allowed Fairfield to successfully convert on just nine of 19 clearing opportunities and also denied the Stags a goal on four man-up chances. Fairfield came in as the top EMO team in the GWLL and the eighth-best in the nation.
Senior G Stewart Crosland (Bethesda, Md./Landon School) failed to stop the first three Stag shots on goal, but then allowed just three more the remainder of the game, making 13 saves for a .684 percentage. Sophomore G Daniel Hickey (Garden City, N.Y./Chaminade H.S.) replaced Crosland for the final 3:08, giving up a Fairfield goal in his collegiate debut.
Clagett and freshman M John Greaney (Babylon, N.Y./Babylon H.S.) both started for the first time this season for the Irish, while Karweck earned his second starting nod in as many games.
The five-game winning streak for Notre Dame is the longest since the Irish won a school-record nine in a row in advancing to the NCAA semifinals in 2001.
The Irish are currently second in the GWLL and the only conference team to have finished league play. Ohio State, ranked eighth and 9-8 winners against Notre Dame on March 31 on a goal with 12 seconds left in the game, is 2-0, with games left against Air Force (April 23, home), Denver (April 25, home), and Fairfield (May 1, away). The Pioneers are third with a 2-1 record and an additional game at Butler (April 23) left on the docket. The Falcons are fourth at 1-2, while the Stags are 1-3, and the Bulldogs are 0-3. Air Force also plays at Butler on April 25.
Notre Dame has just one game remaining this season, and it will come after a 12-day hiatus. The Irish will be at #3 Maryland on Saturday, May 1 at 1 p.m. (EST).