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Irish defense hangs on to defeat Big Green

Joe Meixell | Monday, April 3, 2006

Notre Dame’s defense shut out Dartmouth’s attack the last 11 minutes of the game to hold on for an 8-7 victory Sunday at Moose Krause Stadium.

The No. 11 Irish outlasted the Big Green in a back-and-forth game that saw five ties and six lead changes thanks to lock-down defense in the fourth quarter. After Dartmouth scored to make it 8-7 with 11:37 to go, sophomore Sean Dougherty and senior All-American D.J. Driscoll anchored the Irish’s final defensive stand, picking up three groundballs each in the last seven minutes of the stalemate.

Notre Dame’s defense shortened the Big Green’s possessions by forcing quick turnovers, while the Irish offense controlled the ball late in the game, milking the clock until it ran out on Dartmouth’s chances.

“I definitely thought our defense had the athletic advantage over their attack,” Driscoll said. “It came down to our entire defensive physicality in the second half, going through groundballs, not just pansyfooting around swiping at it. We really addressed the fact we were getting outworked, stepped it up and took it to the next level of aggressiveness.”

In addition to killing Big Green possessions by totaling eight groundballs, Driscoll sparked the possession that took a 7-6 lead the Irish never surrendered. With 1:47 left in the third quarter, Driscoll snatched a high stick save out of the air in front of his net and outran Dartmouth defenders the length of the field before dishing to senior midfielder Drew Peters, who found freshman attack Peter Christman for the go-ahead goal. The assist was Peters’ third point on the year and his second in two games.

Senior All-American attack Pat Walsh led the offensive charge with four assists and one goal – which tied the game at 5-5 with 8:25 left in the third quarter – after he spun around a defender and dove in front of the net to create an angle through which he buried the ball in the back of the cage.

After Dartmouth responded less than a minute later, Walsh notched his fourth assist with a behind-the-back flip that found senior Matt Karweck in front of the net to even up a 6-6 game. Walsh’s sly stick work was one of several nifty passes by him and Dougherty that heated up a crowd shivering from a bitter wind and showers that began falling in the third frame.

The weather did not affect the Irish, as the team ran a crisp passing game despite the slippery conditions – even when it used unconventional methods.

“We adjusted to the weather with our footwork,” Walsh said. “Everyone adjusted by shortening up our passes and making easier plays. In that kind of weather, that’s how you have success.”

Sunday’s game was the second time this week the Irish out-muscled their Ivy League opponent, as they constantly assaulted Big Green ball handlers with big hits and swinging sticks, allowing Dartmouth to convert only 13-of-24 clears and winning the groundball battle 43-39 – an extension of their execution in Wednesday’s 11-5 win against Brown. The Irish successfully cleared 18 of their 21 attempts, as they continue to dominate opponents .800 to .678 in that area.

The game was also Notre Dame’s first victory in a contest that lacked long scoring runs from either team. Irish coach Kevin Corrigan said he was disappointed that the Irish could not capitalize on the chances they created to put the ball in the net and break the game open. But, he was pleased to see Notre Dame win a game wire-to-wire.

“Since I’ve been here at ND coach has always harped on losing close games,” Driscoll said. “To come back after the first quarter and grind out a game definitely will help us later in the season, during league play or in the playoffs.”

Walsh started the Irish scoring four minutes into the game, feeding freshman attack Ryan Hoff, who scored twice Sunday. Senior attack Brian Hubschmann made a precision pass to Walsh to set up Hoff’s first goal, a favor Walsh returned to Hubschmann, setting up the senior Irish leading scorer for the next two goals. Hubschmann also supplied the assist to sophomore midfielder Michael Podgajny, who scored the decisive final Irish goal with 12:56 left in the game.

The victory improves Notre Dame to 6-2 as it enters Great Western Lacrosse League (GWLL) competition next Saturday in Indianapolis against Butler – the first of four straight road contests. If the Irish can survive the imminent road trip, they will put themselves in good position to play themselves into a postseason birth. Corrigan, though, will not let his team think that far ahead.

“I’m just looking at Butler,” Corrigan said. “One game at a time is the only way you can play them and the only way I can look at them as a coach. We’re still alive and still in good position going into league [play]. Hopefully, we’re improving as we go and our best lacrosse is still in front of us.”