April 3, 2016
Saturday had been planned as the ultimate celebration of Syracuse men’s lacrosse in the 100th anniversary season of the sport.
Around 200 former Orange players returned to campus for a Friday night gala, and their university honored that group at halftime of the Notre Dame-Syracuse game at the Carrier Dome.
The Irish, however, stubbornly refused to participate in the party.
By halftime second-rated Notre Dame already had a five-goal lead and had thoroughly outplayed the home team that dressed in throwback uniforms for the occasion. It only got worse in the second half, as the Irish put an emphatic finishing stamp on the victory by scoring the last five goals of the game and eight of the last nine. The Irish defense held the seventh-ranked Orange scoreless for the final 19:55.
Instead of paying tribute to all that past Orange success in lacrosse, Kevin Corrigan’s Irish team created a little history of its own:
- Notre Dame won for the first time at the Carrier Dome (though Corrigan dismisses at least some of the significance of that, given the sample size of four games).
- The Irish ended a 13-game home winning streak for Syracuse at the Dome (the Orange had won 19 of its last 20 games there). This is the same home field where Syracuse set an NCAA record with 37 consecutive victories in 1982-87.
- The 10-goal victory by Notre Dame marked the worst loss at home for Syracuse in 29 seasons-since a 19-6 defeat against Cornell (the eventual NCAA runner-up) in 1987.
- On an individual basis, Irish senior attack Matt Kavanagh put a career-high nine points on the board (three goals, a career-best six assists), and no player opposing Syracuse has done better in the Carrier Dome.
The Irish (7-1 overall, 2-0 in Atlantic Coast Conference play) did it by playing with the sort of bravado, aggressiveness and execution that Orange fans are used to seeing from their own team-and the end result was a resounding 17-7 Notre Dame triumph in front of 9,076 spectators.
Syracuse coach John Desko had to wonder how anyone could have questioned Notre Dame’s recent ability to score (the Irish had been in single digits in its last four games) because Corrigan’s crew did it early, often and in every conceivable fashion Saturday.
Corrigan opened the day by providing his roster with a bit of a history lesson on how the Syracuse program grew capable of putting up 11 NCAA title banners in the Dome:
“What made Syracuse?” he offered. “They always had this swagger. They know who they are. They would take the ball away from people and run and gun. What was never appreciated was how well-coached they were and how disciplined they were in their fundamentals and the way they made plays all over the field.
“And that’s who they are today. They are sound fundamentally and they are never afraid to go out and make plays. And this building can be a little disconcerting sometimes, and that’s why they like playing here.
“What all that means is that today it’s on you. They are going to score some goals and make some plays. It’s all about our reaction and making the next play. That’s us. Let’s go out and play loose and play fast.”
And, wow, did the Irish accomplish that in spades.
Syracuse won the opening face-off, but the Irish forced a turnover before the Orange could cross the midline-and that set an early tone. It took freshman Ryder Garnsey all of 78 seconds to quiet the crowd with a quick goal. Syracuse turned it over again, and senior midfielder Kyle Trolley notched a goal to make it 2-0 not four minutes into the action. Syracuse did not manage its first shot until 9:27 of the first period-and that one was blocked.
After a Tim Barber goal for the home squad, Bobby Gray and Mikey Wynne scored in the next two minutes and halfway through the opening period Notre Dame led 4-1. The officials took a media timeout after Wynne’s goal (the first of his four) at the 7:27 stoppage-but if they hadn’t done that, Desko may well have taken one anyway. That’s how well it began for the Irish.
Freshman midfielder Drew Schantz beat his defender while streaking down the right alley, found Wynne and the sophomore attack dunked it for a 5-2 Notre Dame advantage after one period. The Irish played the opening 15 minutes without a turnover.
Kavanagh took over the second period. He scored his first goal at 13:51, added a second (on a Garnsey assist) at 11:59 and a third 25 seconds later. Neither team scored for the next 11 minutes until Trolley came from the back of the net and underhanded in a worm-burner with :12.3 left until the half. It marked the first time Trolley had scored twice in a game.
By halftime Syracuse had managed only seven shots on goal and had committed nine turnovers. Notre Dame’s P.J. Finley won five of six face-offs in the second period (against Ben Williams, who ranked second in the nation in face-off win percentage coming into the game), and the Irish led 9-4 at intermission.
The storyline coming in had been that the two teams had combined for five one-goal results (four in overtime) over the last three weekends. When Jordan Evans (he led the Orange with three goals) scored twice in the opening 5:12 of the third period to cut the margin to three, even Corrigan had thoughts that it might end up another of those single-goal outcomes.
His own players ended any chance of that.
Garnsey and Kavanagh put on a show from there. Syracuse’s Tom Grimm was called for a push, and just as the penalty released Kavanagh fed Garnsey for a goal at 8:08 (Notre Dame’s only man-up tally of the game). Twenty-three seconds later that same duo collaborated again against an Orange zone defense, and it was 11-6 for the visitors. Notre Dame’s Austin Gaiss notched his first career goal at the 5:46 juncture.
Evans put up his third goal of the period less than a minute later, but the Orange never moved the scoreboard again. Meanwhile, Wynne and Garnsey both scored twice more for the Irish. Garnsey finished with five goals (four in the second half), and Kavanagh had five assists during that final 30 minutes.
“When I’m going I feel like the defense has more eyes on me and so Ryder and Mikey inside get better looks,” noted Kavanagh after the game. “The more pressure I can put on a defense, the more opportunities other guys get.”
When the Irish chased Syracuse goalie Warren Hill early in the fourth period, Hill had stopped only four of the 18 shots Notre Dame had placed on net.
There was no shortage of stars for the Irish. A case could be made for senior defenseman Matt Landis who spent most of his day guarding senior Orange attack Dylan Donahue (he led Syracuse with 33 points coming in). Landis and his teammates limited Donahue to a single, harmless man-up goal-and they effectively thwarted the step-down shot chances for the home team. They also forced Syracuse into eight failed clears and 15 turnovers.
Finley and John Travisano Jr. combined to win 15 of 27 face-offs. Notre Dame’s ability to control the offensive flow, plus that solid all-around defensive performance, enabled the Irish to limit the home-standing Orange to a uncharacteristically low 30 total shots.
Yet, maybe a telltale sign of the all-around Irish preparation came when Kavanagh after the game presented the “man of the match” award to the Notre Dame “G Team” or gold unit that worked against the starters all week in practice.
“There’s not a lot of teams that come into the Dome and win by 10,” Corrigan told his players after the victory. “They came out the second half and scored two quick ones, and then we made the next couple of plays.
“We’re gonna keep working and keep getting better. We’re going to have to grind out some more games along the way, but it’s good to know we can do this. When we get the chance, we can make a bunch of plays.”
The Irish did what they do and they did it really well for 60 minutes-and it easily qualified as Notre Dame’s best all-around effort of 2016 from opening whistle to final buzzer.
“It was nice to see things come together for us today,” Corrigan told the media.
“We’ve emphasized the quality of shots, and I don’t think we took many bad shots today. We didn’t let their goalie off the hook by letting him get some easy saves. We kept the pressure on him pretty well, but if I knew the secret to this we wouldn’t have waited until the eighth game of the year to shoot 50 percent.”
The Kavanagh-Wynne-Garnsey trio combined to put 12 of its 21 shots into the net.
“We didn’t score in just one way-we scored a lot of different ways and that makes it hard for a goalie to settle in,” Corrigan said. “We scored some transition, some unsettled, from our six on six and on our man-up. When you score all four of those ways he’s not going to get comfortable.
“We’ve been on our guys about possessions and goals and turnovers. We’ve been charting all that in practice. We can’t have empty possessions, so it’s been a tremendous point of emphasis for us and it’s a great building block for us today.”
As always, Corrigan chooses to maintain perspective:
“I’m not gonna make too much of this one game. We’ve got Duke next week, they’ve got a lot of talented guys and they’re used to scoring a lot of goals.”
On the first weekend in April, the Irish threw their own party in an unlikely location.
Their goal remains to make the necessary progress and improvement in the weeks to come to replicate that when May comes around.
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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