May 27, 2004
Six Notre Dame players – including four first-team honorees – gained mention when the Great Western Lacrosse League all-conference teams were announced recently. Gaining spots on the 11-member first team were senior A Matt Howell (Huntington, N.Y./Huntington H.S.), junior M Brian Giordano (Princeton, N.J./Hun School), and sophomores A Pat Walsh (Wantagh, N.Y./Wantagh H.S.) and D D.J. Driscoll (Downington, Pa./Malvern Preparatory School), while senior D Brennan Creaney (Baltimore, Md./Loyola Blakefield H.S.) and sophomore M Brian Hubschmann (Short Hills, N.J./Delbarton H.S.) gained second-team accolades. Notre Dame has had at least three first-team all-conference honorees every year since 1991.
Notre Dame and Ohio State both took up four spots on the first team, while the Irish and league-champion Buckeyes also tied for the most overall honorees.
Howell earned all-league accolades for the first time in his career after being plagued with injuries in each of the last two campaigns. He was the second-most-effective weapon for Notre Dame’s offense, which ranks tied for 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 assist average of 1.55 per game currently ranks third in the GWLL and 20th in the nation. Howell had a team-high 10 goals in conference 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 all but one. 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.
Giordano was a first-team selection for the second consecutive season, finishing his third year as an Irish starter with 18 goals and six assists for 24 points. Having missed two games late in the season due to injury, he was second on the Irish in goals per game (1.80). Giordano notched three or more points in six of the 10 games in which he appeared. He was named the GWLL Player of the Week on March 29 after a five-goal performance that keyed Notre Dame’s upset of #13 Hofstra. That performance matched his career high for goals and points. Fifteen of Giordano’s goals came against ranked opponents, and his 2.20 goals per road game were a team best.
Walsh, one of the 15 nominees for the Tewaaraton Trophy awarded to the top player in college lacrosse, was a first-team honoree for the second year in a row. He led the GWLL in scoring with 3.92 points per game, which ranks seventh in Division I. Walsh was tops in the conference in assists (2.17) for the second consecutive year, this time ranking sixth in the nation. He led the Irish in goals (21), assists (26), and points (46) and had three or more points in every game but one. A preseason honorable mention All-America selection by Inside Lacrosse after becoming the first-ever Irish freshman All-American in 2003, Walsh finished his second collegiate campaign with 99 career points (41 G, 58 A), putting him on pace to become the second-quickest player in the program’s history to reach the century mark. He has started all 26 games over the last two seasons, netting multiple points on 23 occasions. Walsh scored multiple goals six times in ’04, while dishing off three or more assists in six games, as well. He posted season highs with four goals and seven points at #17 Denver in leading Irish to a key 14-12 road win.
Driscoll moved up to the first team after being named to the all-GWLL second team as a freshman. He started every game in ’04, finishing with 37 ground balls. Driscoll also led the team in penalty minutes, with six for 5:30.
Creaney started every game for the Irish this season, his second in that role. This is the first time he has earned all-league accolades. Creaney was tied for the team lead with 43 ground balls, after accruing just 56 over his initial three collegiate seasons. He led Notre Dame in ground balls in home games and GWLL contests, with 24 in both.
Driscoll and 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. They were 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. The pair 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.
Hubschmann, in his first year as a starter after being a key reserve in 2003, was the top-scoring midfielder on the Irish with 18 goals and 11 assists for 29 points, which ranked third overall. He led Notre Dame in both shots taken (88) and shots put on goal (48) and had multiple points in eight of 11 games in which he played after doing so just once as a rookie. After not having more than two points in a game last season, Hubschmann had two goals and four assists in the season-opening win over #17 Penn State. He then scored a career-high four times in the Irish upset of #13 Hofstra, also netting an assist. Twenty of Hubschmann’s points came in games against ranked opponents.
The four first-teamers extended the Irish streak of consecutive years with at least a trio of first-team all-conference honorees to 14. That streak includes three seasons in the Midwest Lacrosse Association and all 11 since the formation of the GWLL in 1994.
Walsh and Driscoll are in elite company as players who earned all-GWLL honors in both of their first two collegiate seasons. Only two previous Irish student-athletes – G Alex Cade (1995 and ’96) and A Chris Dusseau (1996 and ’97) – had accomplished that feat.
Ohio State took two of the major awards, as Joe Breschi was named GWLL Coach of the Year for the second straight season, and G Tony Russo and D Greg Bice shared the distinction of the conference’s top player. Fairfield’s M Greg Downing was tabbed the Newcomer of the Year.
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.