April 10, 2015
Before almost any Irish sporting event, the words of Cathy Richardson’s Here Come the Irish of Notre Dame can be heard, ringing throughout the stadium. It’s a little bit cheesy, but there truly is some magic in the sound of the name of one particular player on the men’s lacrosse team. Ever since arriving on campus, winning is exactly what Mikey Wynne has done.
Putting the cliches aside, the freshman attackman has consistently written his name all over the stat sheet through the course of the season, debuting for the Irish on February 14 with a six-goal performance versus Georgetown.
The Sykesville, Maryland native was a highly-touted prospect coming out of St. Paul’s School and had a lot of buzz surrounding him as he began his Notre Dame career. Despite the hype, no one was expecting such an explosive start by the rookie, except maybe his teammates.
“We wanted to keep him a secret. We didn’t want to let everybody know about him,” said fifth-year senior captain Jim Marlatt of Wynne after the Georgetown game.
Concealing the talents of Wynne did not work too long for the Irish, but the way he has been playing, there is no reason to hide such an important asset anymore.
It is hard to top such an outstanding start to a college career, but Wynne has only improved. He currently leads No. 1 Notre Dame in goals, netting 26 so far, and posts a .520 shooting percentage on 50 shots. The numbers do not lie. Wynne knows how to finish.
Wynne attributes his uncanny knack for finding the back of the net to his adherence to one of head coach Kevin Corrigan’s primary philosophies, focusing on the little things and mastering them. He doesn’t try to get too fancy, only employing short half fakes and shoulder pumps in order to get the goalie to move.
“I’ve always lived by shoot to where the goalie isn’t, even if it is an awkward place in the goal,” Wynne says. “Every goal counts for one point, so I just put it where the goalie isn’t.”
Though Wynne’s onslaught of scoring has helped to power the Notre Dame offensive machine, he does not endure constant pressure to get open and take shots on cage. Before the season, Corrigan commented on Wynne’s potential, “The good thing about Mikey is that he doesn’t have to have the ball in his stick to make plays. He’s a really good and smart off-ball player.” By working off ball, slipping into spaces left by the defense, and focusing on finishing on goal, he now plays a key role in the Irish offense.
For example, in Tuesday’s 14-7 win over Marquette, Wynne remained relatively quiet until a man-up score six minutes into the third quarter. Though it does not show in the box score, Wynne contributed majorly through the first half. His off-ball movement constantly attracted the attention of Marquette defenders, allowing his teammates to enjoy a little extra time to shoot when dodging.
The Golden Eagles, much like the rest of the NCAA, had heard about Wynne’s firepower. And just like most of Notre Dame’s opponents, Marquette failed to shut him or Notre Dame down. The Fighting Irish boast the nation’s seventh-best scoring offense (13.67 goals per game).
Allowing stellar dodgers like Matt Kavanagh and Sergio Perkovic to carry the ball and eventually find Wynne in open space to score has paid off. He can be patient and allow the other Irish weapons to work, while playing within himself.
“I completely embrace the off-ball part of my game,” Wynne says. “Coach was telling me at the beginning of the year that I am not a bad dodger, but he’s saying we have the greatest dodgers in the game right now. Just do your off-ball thing, and as your career continues maybe you will dodge more, maybe you won’t, but I am completely okay with the off-ball role.”
Corrigan is grateful for the way Wynne has stepped up this year. “Mikey has a great IQ for the game and he appreciates and understands that he’s playing with two really good players (Conor Doyle and Matt Kavanagh) down there so he’s not trying to do too much,” Corrigan says. “He’s doing just what he should be doing when you’re playing with two guys like that.”
Wynne has always embraced whatever role is available to him. Whether it was at his local high school Glenelg, playing alongside his older brothers, or when he made the move to Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association (MIAA) power St. Paul’s for his junior and senior seasons, Wynne has tried to find his niche and flourish.
Growing up in a lacrosse family, Wynne found it easy to pick up the game. His father, Brian, was a standout attackman at Salisbury University, where his mother, Karen, played field hockey. Brian taught the game to all five of his sons. Mikey’s oldest brother, Josh, played at Lynchburg College, while his brothers Zach and Nick play at Florida Tech. The youngest Wynne, Kevin, is committed to play at Mercer University.
Falling in line as the fourth of five boys, Mikey learned from a young age the value of seizing opportunity. When it was his turn to shine, Wynne would always rise to the occasion.
“I’d end up in the goal a lot actually,” he describes of the Wynne brothers’ backyard shootarounds. “We’d be shooting tennis balls on each other and the youngest brother is always the one to hop in the cage so I guess it toughened me up a little bit and to learn to deal with a lot of stuff, and not get fazed when you’re playing with older, bigger competition.”
So it’s no surprise Wynne only needed a short time to adjust to the speed of the college game.
“I feel like making the transition from the public school to the private school is a lot like making the transition from the private school to college,” Wynne says of his relative ease of transition. “You just have to elevate your game, work harder, and try and be the best you can.”
Spending time in goal also taught Wynne some of the finer points of scoring.
“You’re sitting there, seeing where your brother shoots and seeing what works and things like that,” he explains. “You definitely take that into account because when you get your turn to step out there to shoot, you’re gonna try and put it places where the goalie can’t get to it.”
Wynne has taken what he learned from his family, applied it to game situations, and has seen great success because of it. His hard work and knowledge of the game helped him score 72 goals in his senior season at St. Paul’s. Still, what really gave him the confidence to succeed at this level was Notre Dame’s fall scrimmage against Team USA out in Seattle.
“I was going up against guys I’ve watched growing up, like Kyle Harrison, Paul Rabil, Garrett Thul, all those great players,” Wynne says. “If you can be successful against them, you can be successful against anybody.”
Wynne and the Irish (8-1, 3-0 ACC) hope to keep thriving the rest of the regular season and all the way through May. With Wynne playing the way he has, the opportunity should be there for the Fighting Irish. The road won’t be easy and that’s perfect for Wynne.
“I like to scrap a little bit, I mean inside you have to be able to scrap a little bit when you got guys pushing on you and all that,” laughs Wynne. “Try to be an opportune player and just capitalize on all the chances I get.”
Wynne’s attitude, like his smile, is contagious, and when one of the youngest guys on the team is ready to do anything, that means good things. Hopefully with the help of Wynne’s offensive production and scrappy attitude, the Irish will find themselves just where they want to be on Memorial Day.
— Joe DiSipio `18