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Irish and Greyhounds start season in Atlanta

Michael Bryan | Friday, February 13, 2009

The No. 7 Irish will travel to Atlanta to open their season against No. 17 Loyola (Md.).

The Irish return five starters from a strong 14-3 campaign in 2008. The 14 wins tied a program record, and Notre Dame advanced to the quarterfinals of the NCAA Tournament.

Senior captain Regis McDermott said the Irish have very high expectations for the season.

“Part of the culture and tradition we have been building is to expect a lot of ourselves every year, and this year is no different,” McDermott said. “Our goal is to be playing Memorial Day weekend in Foxboro [in the NCAA Final Four].”

The Irish ended the regular season tied for first in the Great Western Lacrosse League (GWLL) with Denver and Ohio State, with each team sharing an identical 5-1 record. Notre Dame then defeated Quinnipiac and Ohio State in the inaugural GWLL tournament to win the conference championship.

The Irish will face a strong test at a neutral site against the Greyhounds, who have made the NCAA Tournament the past two seasons. Loyola finished 2008 with a 7-7 record after losing in the first round to top-seeded Duke.

The Greyhounds will be without top attack Shane Koppens, who was granted an extra year of eligibility by the NCAA but must sit out the first two games as a result of the decision. Koppens led Loyola last season with 44 points, tallying 19 goals and 25 assists.

The Irish defense, which ranked No. 5 nationally last season, is led by the all-conference senior McDermott. He started all 17 games last season and helped Notre Dame hold opponents to 7.04 goals per game.

On offense, the Irish will look to another all-conference selection, senior attack Ryan Hoff. The captain will be looking for his third straight 40-goal season after leading Notre Dame with 41 last year.

“I think our team’s strength is that we don’t have a huge weakness,” Hoff said. “We are pretty solid throughout the ranks. Our offense brings a whole lot back from last year, and our midfield is very talented and hard-working.”

The Irish offense returns three of the top four scorers from last year’s team, which was also ranked No. 5 nationally with 12.09 goals per game. Junior Grant Krebs netted 26 goals, second on the team, and senior Duncan Swezey tallied 22.

Joining McDermott as captains for 2009 are seniors Peter Christman, Scott Rodgers and Davey Malera.

Rodgers will be looking to fill the shoes of graduated All-American goalkeeper Joey Kemp. The Wantagh, N.Y. native has played in seven career games and carries a 5.73 goals-against average.

“I feel like this is going to be a great opponent for our first game,” Rodgers said. “Loyola is a disciplined, fundamentally sound squad, but then again so are we. It’s going to be a battle but we are prepared.”

The Irish will face off against the Greyhounds Saturday at 1 p.m. The home opener for Notre Dame is Feb. 28 against Dartmouth.