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Men’s Lacrosse: Irish look to continue NCAA run

Griffin Dassatti | Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Though their season still goes on, the Irish still have a lot to be proud of in 2008.

The Irish (14-2, 4-1 GWLL) came into the year with a pretty simple agenda, according to head coach Kevin Corrigan.

“We wanted to win our league again and get back to the Tournament.” Corrigan said. “We felt like if we got there we’d be a team to be reckoned with.”

Though the GWLL championship in 2007 had been nice, there is little doubt that the 11-10 overtime loss to Johns Hopkins in the first round of the NCAA Tournament was lingering in a few memories. With that in mind, the Irish began the year hot, winning four in a row including victories over Penn State and Villanova.

Notre Dame’s quick start to the season mirrored its game strategy. From the first face-off of every game, Notre Dame looked to go on the attack immediately, trying to establish strong momentum. The Irish outscored their opponents 53-21 in the first quarter as a part of a 197-109 overall margin.

Corrigan said this was not solely an offensive effort.

“Defensively we’ve established ourselves as a very solid group,” he said. “Of the games we lost, one was by a goal, one by two goals, and we held every opponent but one under double figures.”

Those two losses came in a close 8-6 game at North Carolina on March 8 and a heartbreaker against Denver at Toyota Park in Chicago, which the Irish lost 9-8 on a Denver goal with nine seconds left. As for the double-figures win, it came in a must-win the last game of the GWLL season against Ohio State.

“We need to win this game,” Corrigan said before the match-up with the Buckeyes. “If we win this game, we’ll be the No. 1 seed going into the [GWLL] tournament this weekend. If we lose this game we’re going have to beat [OSU] and Denver in the tournament next weekend.”

Sure enough, with the 17-12 win over the Buckeyes, the Irish clinched the No. 1 seed in the tournament, which they won handily for their 11th GWLL title. The win also earned Notre Dame a spot in the NCAA Tournament for the 13th time in program history.

This past Sunday, the NCAA Tournament came to South Bend, and the Irish welcomed it in dramatic fashion. After being down 7-5 with 4:23 left, the team stormed back behind goals by sophomore attackman Neil Hicks, senior attackman Michael Podgajny and a thrilling goal by junior midfielder Peter Christman to seal the win with 1:28 left in overtime.

All year the Irish have been led by a strong group of starters, most of them upperclassmen. Junior attack Ryan Hoff led the team with 40 goals and senior attack Alex Wharton led the team in overall points with 49 (19 goals, 30 assists). Other than Wharton, Notre Dame had five other players with over 30 points: Hoff (44), junior attackman Duncan Swezey (39), sophomore midfielder Grant Krebs (34), and Podgajny and Christman (each with 31).

On the defensive side, senior goalie Joey Kemp, a two-time All-America Honorable Mention, made 171 saves for a 63.6-percentage, giving up just 6.41 goals per game.

“We had a terrific year,” Corrigan said. “I couldn’t be happier for the seniors. It’s not just about the results but [also] about the process and you how get there and this group has put in the work. They’ve put in the time in the weight room and in practice…. This is a great group of kids who love each other, love Notre Dame, and love playing lacrosse.”

The Irish now look forward to a game Sunday against Syracuse in Ithaca, N.Y., in the NCAA Tournament quarterfinals.