Feb. 27, 2016

By: John Heisler

University of Detroit men’s lacrosse coach Chris Kolon might have taken some measure of solace when he saw that top-ranked Notre Dame looked vulnerable, human-pick the appropriate adjective–in the second half of its win Wednesday against Bellarmine.

The visiting Knights forced the Irish into seven third-period turnovers and outshot the nation’s top-rated team 15-12 after halftime while playing Notre Dame to a 3-3 second-half “tie” in the 11-6 Irish win.

But, knowing what he knows about Kevin Corrigan and the Irish, Kolon watched video of Notre Dame’s second-half “struggles” and knew those circumstances were not likely to benefit his team.

“I had a feeling that third quarter against Bellarmine was going to get taken care of, you know what I mean? They were going to correct that,” said Kolon with a smile after Notre Dame’s 14-5 victory over his Titans Saturday at the Loftus Center.

Corrigan made the pitch to his Irish before the game as Notre Dame played its third contest in an eight-game stretch:

“Every game has its own challenges. We have to do our job. We have to focus on our own continuing improvement. What can we get better at? What can we be great at? What kind of depth do we have?

“We can’t find that in practice. You find that in the crucible of a game. Our job is the next 60 minutes.”

Detroit won the initial face-off and scored first and, when Trevor Brosco hit the post on Notre Dame’s first shot and Mikey Wynne misfired on a wrap-around attempt, a few Irish fans might have gulped.

Wynne and all-star midfielder (and Detroit product) Sergio Perkovic put any fears to rest.

Wynne had a hat trick in the first period, Perkovic had one in the second period-and by halftime a dominant all-around effort left the Irish with an 8-2 advantage.

Now, cue the Bellarmine contest from Wednesday after a similar-looking opening half left the Irish on top 8-3. Think that wasn’t a topic of conversation at halftime?

“We’re in the same position we were the other day,” said Corrigan. “Let’s finish this off and show that we learned something. We’re getting the looks we want. I love the way we’re playing-let’s keep doing it.”

And so they did.

Wynne, Perkovic and their mates left no doubt. They scored the first five goals of the second half, eventually built an 11-goal lead-and enabled Corrigan to gain the looks he wanted at some of his less experienced personnel options.

Wynne’s six goals tied his single-game high from 2015. Perkovic’s four goals marked his eighth career outing with at least three (and his second with four goals in as many Saturdays in 2016).

The Irish scored in transition, they ran the field after forcing turnovers, they dominated at the face-off circle again and their double-teaming defense made life miserable for the Titans most of the day.

Typical of the Irish effort was the fourth Notre Dame goal-with Brendan Collins leaping high to pick off a pass at one end, then Matt Kavanagh connecting with rookie Drew Schantz for the goal just a few seconds later. That made it 4-1 for the home team less than two minutes into the second period. Kavanagh scored 15 seconds later, forcing Detroit to call timeout.

Wynne connected on six of his seven shots (including one layup where he faked the Titan goalie onto his backside)-and that would be a percentage for the headlines no matter the sport.

“It was my teammates getting a lot of good separation on dodges and me moving off ball,” said Wynne. “My job is to find some room, catch it and bury it. I got some great skips from (Matt) Kav (Kavanagh) and Brendan (Collins) on the extra-man opportunities, and I just slipped in behind the crease guy.”

“That’s a great job,” Corrigan said to his troops after the game. “That’s what we wanted to do.

“I don’t care about the score. I care about the quality of play. We kept doing the little things well, and we finished it off.”

Corrigan lamented some loose stick-handling, with the Irish missing some late first-half chances when they turned the ball over four times in a five-possession stretch.

Yet the Irish coach knows the sort of 60-minute level of execution he saw most of Saturday will give his squad a chance in most every outing. The challenges ramp up quickly, starting next Saturday against Maryland and then the following weekend against Denver. Those just happen to be the two teams that matched up in the NCAA title game last May.

“Notre Dame really penalizes you when you make a mistake, and that’s great,” added Kolon. “That’s what’s so exciting about the way they play lacrosse. You make a mistake, and they make you pay for it.”

Kolon’s 2015 Detroit team led the nation in saves per game at 15.14.

On Saturday the 14 by Titan goaltender Jason Weber didn’t prove nearly enough.

John Heisler, senior associate athletics director at the University of Notre Dame, has been part of the Fighting Irish athletics communications team since 1978. A South Bend, Indiana, native, he is a 1976 graduate of the University of Missouri School of Journalism and a member of the College Sports Information Directors of America Hall of Fame. He is editor of the award-winning “Strong of Heart” series. University of Notre Dame Athletics Communications contact:
John Heisler
Senior Associate Athletics Director
112 Joyce Center
Notre Dame, IN 46556
574-631-7516 (office)
574-532-0293 (cell)

The University of Notre Dame men’s lacrosse team pursues excellence on and off the field through the three pillars in which the program is built: Character, Culture & Community. These three foundational values guide the promise of the program, which is to provide its student-athletes with the most compelling and enriching experience in all of college athletics. Through academics, competition, service and travel, the program aims to immerse its players in situations that enhance their student-athlete experience to help them become the people, students and teammates they aspire to be.

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