March 25, 2018
By John Heisler
When your team is trying to prevent a second loss in five days.
When you’re stuck with either the confidence (or the albatross) of a 15-game win streak against your opponent.
When your head coach is looking for his 300th career win.
When you’re trying to keep from going 0-3 against the Big Ten in the month of March.
When you’re doing all you can not to waste an amazing, Trevor Baptiste-like, 17-of-19 face-off performance by John Travisano.
When your University of Notre Dame men’s lacrosse team is facing a fresh goaltender who is making his first start and who never even played in a college game until a week ago-and you’re thinking that five goals after three periods is not exactly the way you and your teammates had hoped to introduce yourselves to him.
When all those items are weighing on your brain and your team trails 6-5 heading into the final period and the game is hanging in the balance.
When all of that together demanded a response, it proved reassuring to Irish coach Kevin Corrigan, his staff and players that the appropriate one appeared in full view in the bright sunshine of Ohio Stadium Sunday in Columbus.
And so the fourth-rated Irish came from behind by scoring four times in the final 13:05, out-shot home-standing Ohio State 16-3 in the last period, won all seven critical face-offs in that quarter and parlayed that into a 9-8 victory over the Buckeyes.
Coming off a Wednesday one-goal home defeat at the hands of Michigan, Corrigan made it clear with his players before the game that even after three decades as Irish head coach he only barely tolerates losing.
“You’d think I’d be better at it after 130-some times, but I stink at losing.
“I hate it. I can’t stand it. I can’t abide it. I’m mad at everybody.
“But it’s all part of the process because by the next morning it’s about what I could have done or should have done. It’s about accepting your accountability and trying to get better from it.
“You have to have your own process. When we aren’t successful, what could we have done better? That’s how you learn and improve. Our best lacrosse is in front of us. But it’s got to be a constant battle to drive yourself to say, ‘What do I need to do now?’
“How do we get to the point where we’re playing our best lacrosse? As we go through this journey, let’s stay focused on what we know we have to do to be successful-to communicate well, to be fundamentally sound and to work our butts off athletically. Those are the things we’re best at.
“Let’s go play our best lacrosse.”
A back-and-forth contest saw the Irish post leads of 2-1, 3-2, 4-3 and 5-4. It took a 6-5 deficit and an empty third period that produced no goals on 12 shots, three shots on goal and four turnovers to change the tide.
Next came the only three-goal run by either team–and it essentially won the game for the visiting Irish:
–First, after a long Irish possession, junior attack Ryder Garnsey faked left, came back right and tied the game at 13:05.
–After Travisano won another faceoff, junior Brendan Gleason gave the Irish the lead for good at 12:19.
–Another Travisano win produced multiple Notre Dame shots until a save by Josh Kirson gave the ball to the Buckeyes. But they lost it and in the transition, Mikey Wynne ended up all alone on cage and his goal made it 8-6 at 9:56.
Garnsey notched what turned out to be the game-winning goal at 4:11 when he fought his way down the goal line and dove toward the crease. After a consultation, the officials ruled it a goal, Notre Dame led 9-7 and that allowed the Irish to withstand a final Ohio State score at 2:41.
After a Bryan Costabile miss at 2:08, the Buckeyes had a chance to tie. But Ohio State was off-sides at 1:02 and the Irish ran out the clock.
“We came back and played the way we wanted to play,” Corrigan told his team in the corner locker room at Ohio Stadium. “We did not always finish the way we wanted to with the ball, but we played fearlessly. For a second there in the third quarter we got out of character a little bit with our offense. But we quickly righted ourselves, and we came back and played really good lacrosse in the last period.
“Close wins are something we have to be good at. I love the way we played without trepidation. I love our spirit and mental toughness. I love our communication on the sideline.”
Irish freshman goaltender Matt Schmidt tied his season high with nine saves in a return to his hometown. Travisano dominated the middle of the field with nine ground balls, while John Sexton had six. Gleason, Wynne and Garnsey each scored twice.
After its Wednesday loss to Michigan, Notre Dame righted the ship to move to 5-2. Ohio State dropped to 5-4, with four of its last five games (three of them losses) decided by a goal (including two overtime losses).
The Irish have scored either nine, 10 or 11 goals in six of their seven games. And Notre Dame now has outscored its foes 27-14 in the fourth periods of 2018.
As Corrigan noted, five straight Irish games now have been determined by two or fewer goals.
The toughest-in-the-nation Notre Dame schedule wouldn’t suggest anything otherwise.
Senior associate athletics director John Heisler has been covering Irish athletics since 1978.