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Exhibition with Bison to challenge No. 5 Irish

Michael Bryan | Friday, February 1, 2008

Notre Dame will try to prove its No. 5 preseason ranking Sunday in an exhibition against No. 13 Bucknell.

After dominating its exhibition last week against Robert Morris, Notre Dame will face tougher competition against the Bison. Notre Dame, ranked fifth in Lacrosse Magazine’s preseason poll, will hope to repeat its strong Sunday performance against the Colonials in their opening exhibition.

While score is not kept for the exhibitions, the Irish controlled play on both the offensive and defensive ends against Robert Morris. Irish coach Kevin Corrigan was encouraged by the team’s play.

“We got up early, and played at a pretty good level pretty consistently,” said Corrigan.

The Bison enter 2008 coming off their best season in program history. Bucknell returns nine of 10 starters from last year’s 11-4 team, which finished third in the Patriot League.

Leading the returning Bison offense is sophomore attackman Austin Winter, who led the team last season with 20 goals and 29 assists. The Bucknell defense is headed up by junior Billy Haire, an all-around defender that can deliver big hits as well as apply tight coverage.

The Bison defense, which finished seventh in the NCAA in scoring defense last season, will face a huge challenge against the explosive Irish. Notre Dame returns virtually its entire offense from last year’s NCAA Tournament team.

“We’re very strong on the offensive end and in the offensive midfield,” Corrigan said.

The Irish recently had four players honored in the Inside-Lacrosse top-50 players list for 2008. The highest ranked Notre Dame player was goalkeeper Joey Kemp, the 2007 Great Western Lacrosse League player of the year. A four-year starter for Notre Dame, Kemp has a 26-11 record and 7.43 goals-against average for his career.

Two-sport athlete Will Yeatman, the 2007 LaxPower rookie of the year, was 15th on the list. Yeatman was the only underclassman in the top 20 on the list.

Senior Sean Dougherty, a preseason All-American selection, was tabbed No. 35 on the list. Dougherty anchors the Notre Dame defense that held opponents to a team-record 6.66 goals per game last season.

The last Irish teammate on the list was senior midfielder Michael Podgajny, who was ranked 37th. Podgajny was the only Notre Dame player to score a goal in every game last year.

Corrigan said while the team has high expectations, players are focused on meeting daily goals in practice.

“We want to take everything we’re doing up a level, and do it on a daily basis,” Corrigan said.

The exhibition with the Bison will conclude the Irish preseason. Notre Dame’s first game will be Feb. 16 against Loyola.