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Men’s Lacrosse: No. 8 Irish prepare to face Butler

Tim Dougherty | Friday, April 7, 2006

The No. 8 Notre Dame men will take their highest ranking of the year to Indianapolis to face off against Butler in the Great Western Lacrosse League opener for both teams.

The Bulldogs (3-6) have struggled, but they host the Irish carrying their strongest momentum of the season after two straight 8-7 wins against Robert Morris and Bellarmine.

Butler’s defense has improved after allowing 20 goals against No. 12 Duke Feb. 18 and 16 goals against No. 14 Towson March 15. The Bulldogs limited No. 6 Princeton to nine goals and No. 16 Delaware to seven goals in two closely contested losses, winning two straight for the first time this year.

“When we watch film on them they look very good,” Irish midfielder Drew Peters said. “Both offensively and defensively, they’re a solid team. We want to get this win to get a jump start going into league play.”

The Irish are 12-1 all-time against Butler and 11-1 in GWLL openers. Overall, Notre Dame is 44-7 in 12 GWLL seasons, including nine league titles.

Last season the Irish went 3-2 in conference, the only year in which they lost more than one game and missed the NCAA tournament by one spot.

Notre Dame finished its non-conference slate with a 6-2 mark – including losses to No. 2 Hofstra and No. 5 Cornell and victories over then-No. 14 Penn State and then-No. 20 North Carolina. They now stare down the Bulldogs in the first test of a four-game road trip of conference foes that will shape their postseason future.

If the Irish emerge unblemished they will be playing for an automatic NCAA tournament berth in the field of 16 when they return home to finish their season against Ohio State and Quinnipiac.

“At the beginning of the season we were really concerned about this point in the season when we start league play,” Peters said. “We’ve taken our league for granted a little bit the past couple of years. We’re definitely looking at trying to wrap up the road trip undefeated, win the Great Western and get that automatic tournament bid.”

The Irish dominated Butler 22-6 at Moose Krause Stadium last year, outshooting them 68-24 and picking up twice as many groundballs as the Bulldogs.

This Notre Dame squad is a different team than last year’s edition, as Irish coach Kevin Corrigan throughout the year has criticized the team’s inability to capitalize on scoring opportunities – including last Sunday’s 8-7 win over Dartmouth.

The 2006 Irish hold a .252 shooting percentage and an 8.12 scoring average compared to .309 and 11.91 a year ago. Though Notre Dame has also held opponents to 6.75 goals per game (down one and a half goals from a year ago), against Butler they hope to regain the offensive form of last season – during which they wore out opposing nets with the fourth highest scoring offense in the country.

Senior attack Matt Karweck had a monster day against the Bulldogs last year, tallying five goals and three assists. He enters Saturday’s game with 11 goals on the year – second on the team behind senior attack Brian Hubschmann, who has 16.

Senior All-American Pat Walsh collected three scores and distributed three assists in last year’s win. Walsh comes into Saturday’s game after being named GWLL Player of the Week – the second such distinction of his career – for his two goals and six assists in last week’s wins over Brown (11-5) and Dartmouth.

Peters said the team’s chief concern this Saturday against Butler is to be the best team in the GWLL.

“It’s our first game in league play,” Peters said. “Every game in the league is very hard, so we expect them to come out very hard. We’re ready to play a tough team.”