Notre Dame defeats five ranked opponents en route to 9-3 campaign and sixth straight NCAA tournament appearance.
The expectations for his team from Notre Dame head coach Kevin Corrigan seem to grow with every season. Since Corrigan’s arrival in 1989, the Irish have become one of the most consistent and successful lacrosse programs nationally.
The 1997 campaign marked Notre Dame’s sixth straight NCAA tournament appearance. Only five other schools — Johns Hopkins, Loyola (Md.), Maryland, Princeton and Syracuse — can make that claim which puts Corrigan’s squad in elite company.
The Irish, who faced eight ranked opponents during the ’97 season and won five of those contests, earned their highest finish ever — ninth — in the United States Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association (USILA) final poll.
Five of the 12 games were decided by a single goal as Corrigan’s squad won three times earning victories over Delaware(15-14) , Hobart (10-9) in overtime and Hofstra (10-9). The victory over the then fourth-ranked Flying Dutchmen marked the highest ranked opponent the Irish had beaten in the 17-year history of the program.
For the third time in four years, Notre Dame finished the season undefeated at home as the Irish completed the campaign with a 6-0 record. In recent years, Moose Krause Stadium has been a home-field advantage for Corrigan and his squad as they have posted a 24-4 mark for an 85.7 winning percentage.
Notre Dame began the campaign ranked 14th and faced 16th-ranked Penn State in the season opener for both squads. The two teams last faced each other during the 1995 campaign with the Nittany Lions earning a 15-14 decision that was decided in the final minutes of the game.
A strong second-half defense shut out Penn State as the Irish posted a 9-5 victory on the road. Trailing 3-2 after one quarter and 5-4 at the half, junior goalkeeper Alex Cade and the rest of the Irish defense did not allow a Penn State goal in the second half. Burke Hayes, Stephen Taylor and Chris Dusseau each scored twice for the Irish in the victory. Hayes tied the game with 14:18 left in the third quarter and 2:22 later, Taylor gave Notre Dame’s its first lead of the contest.
Notre Dame survived a scare in the second game of the season over upstart Delaware. After racing to a 7-0 first-quarter lead and 9-4 halftime advantage, the Irish held off the Blue Hens for a 15-14 victory in Newark, Del., as Delaware tallied the game’s final five goals of the contest. The Irish led 15-9 with 9:53 remaining in the contest before the five-goal Delaware spurt which included three in the final 1:18.
Senior attackman Will DeRiso, who finished as the team’s leading scorer with 18 goals and 25 assists, had the biggest scoring output of his career as he led the Irish with five goals and four assists. Dusseau and Brad Owen contributed three goals each in the win.
Notre Dame was on the road for the third time in as many games as the Irish traveled to Baltimore, Md., to face 13th-ranked Loyola, a team that Notre Dame had not beaten in four previous meetings.
The Greyhounds started off strong and led 5-1 at the end of the first quarter, but the Notre Dame outscored the hosts 5-2 in the second trailed and trailed just 7-6 at the intermission. From that point on, the teams battled back and forth. The Irish, who never led in the game, fell behind 11-8 with 12:42 remaining in the game, but battled back to tie the game at 11-11 with 4:32 left to play on Hayes’ unassisted goal in a man-up situation.
Tim O’Shea scored the game-winning goal off an assist from Matt Shearer with a man-advantage in the final 2:45 of the game as the Greyhounds pulled out a 12-11 victory.
Junior Ned Webster, who sat out the entire 1996 campaign, led the Irish with two goals and four assists, while Dusseau responded with his second straight three-goal outing.
Following the loss to the Greyhounds, Notre Dame played five straight home game. In their first home contest, the Irish rebounded from its loss to Loyola and defeated Dartmouth 15-5. Jimmy Keenan had a big game for the Irish as he scored four goals and dished off three assists.
Notre Dame faced three ranked opponents at home on successive weekends. In a see-saw battle that saw seven ties and lead changes, the 14th-ranked Irish pulled off a dramatic 10-9 come-from-behind overtime victory over visiting Hobart.
The 12th-ranked Statesmen jumped out to a three-goal advantage (6-3) at the start of the third quarter, but Notre Dame came back to tie the contest for the fourth time on freshman Stedman Oakey’s goal that was dished off by Keenan, who finished the game with four assists. Webster gave Notre Dame its first lead since the first quarter to put the Irish up 7-6, but back-to-back Hobart goals put the Statesmen ahead 8-7 with 7:47 remaining in the contest.
Burke tallied his second goal of the game 11 seconds later and Webster notched his second score of the game with four minutes remaining to put the Irish up 9-8. Jared Bebee tied the game with 2:44 left as the two teams were deadlocked 9-9 after 60 minutes.
Dusseau scored the game-winner, his second of the contest, 1:37 into overtime as the Irish had their second one-goal victory of the season.
Notre Dame’s matchup with fourth-ranked Hofstra proved to be just as dramatic as Corrigan’s squad pulled out another 10-9 victory. This win, however, proved to be one of the biggest in school history as the Irish, who had climbed to 13th in the poll, beat a top five opponent for the first time in the program’s history.
Dusseau and Hayes led the Irish scoring attack with three goals each, while Webster and Keenan dished off four and three assists, respectively.
Notre Dame jumped out to a 7-0 lead in the game and led 8-4 at the half. Both teams scored once in the third quarter, but the Flying Dutchmen made it interesting with four goals in the fourth, including three in the final 6:08 in the contest. Hofstra pulled to within one goal with 36 seconds left to play and got the ball back with 19 seconds, but good defensive pressure by the Irish knocked the ball out of the stick of the Hofstra player.
Notre Dame would rattle off two more victories with wins over Butler (13-10) and Air Force (9-4) as the Irish climbed to ninth in the USILA poll heading into their game at 11th-ranked Massachusetts.
The Minutemen, who have proven to be a nemesis for the Irish, came away with the victory as they snapped Notre Dame’s five-game win streak with a 6-5 decision. Notre Dame fell behind 5-0 in the contest and was shut out for more than two quarters.
Hayes finally got the Irish on the scoreboard in the game with 4:28 left in the third quarter and. Dusseau scored his second goal of the game with 8:31 remaining in the contest to get the Irish within one, but Notre Dame failed to score after that point. Cade finished with a season-high 21 saves in the game and held the Minutemen scoreless in the final 26:07 of the contest.
Notre Dame closed out the regular season with a 13-5 victory over 16th-ranked Harvard for its fifth win over a ranked opponent as Hayes and Dusseau each tallied four times. The Irish earned their sixth consecutive Great Western Lacrosse League title after beating Ohio State 20-9 in the season finale.
For the sixth straight year, the Irish earned a bid into the NCAA tournament and were matched up against Loyola in the first round. It was a matchup both teams were excited about in the wake of what happened earlier in the season. The Greyhounds, however, were the better team on May 11 as Notre Dame lost a 21-5 decision.
For the fifth consecutive year, Notre Dame had at least one player named to the USILA All-America team. In ’97, Rassas earned second-team honors, while Keenan was an honorable mention choice. Keenan finished ninth nationally with 2.33 assists per game and set a Notre Dame mark for most assists in a season by a midfielder (28).
Seven Irish players (the most in school history) earned GWLL honors. Dusseasu, Will DeRiso, Keenan, Cade, Rassas and Dave Cashen were first-team selections, while Hayes was a second-team honoree.
Cashen also became the program’s first GTE Academic All-American as he copped second-team honors in the Men’s Spring At-Large program.
As has become customary, each season has become a building block for the Irish men’s lacrosse program. The ’97 campaign proved no different.