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Men’s Lacrosse: Backs against the wall

Allan Joseph | Wednesday, April 28, 2010

With No. 19 Notre Dame’s postseason hopes hanging in the balance, No. 2 Syracuse will visit sold-out Arlotta Stadium Saturday in one of the most anticipated season finales in program history. Irish coach Kevin Corrigan said he hopes a large contingent of students will attend and make “The Lot” an intimidating venue for the Orange.

“It’s going to be a great crowd. There’s going to be a lot of people there,” Corrigan said. “There’s no question that our guys want to play in front of their fellow students. That’s what it’s all about as a college athlete.”

Though a visit from the perennial powerhouse Orange (11-1, 4-0 Big East) would be an extremely important game under any circumstances, Notre Dame (7-5, 2-3) has a special sense of urgency in Saturday’s contest. A win could mean qualification for the NCAA tournament, while a loss could mean the Irish would likely be left out of the postseason in a disappointing end to the season.

“There’s no question that if we win Saturday, we’re going to the tournament,” Corrigan said. “That’s the position we want to be in, and we’ve got the chance to do that ourselves.”

The Irish bring some momentum into the contest, having won two consecutive Big East contests by comfortable margins. But the Orange have only dropped one game all season, a tight 11-10 loss at No. 1 Virginia.

Syracuse’s style of play will pose a challenge for the Irish but should also provide an entertaining dynamic for the fans in Arlotta Stadium. Syracuse keeps the tempo and pressure up, looking to create plays in transition from anywhere on the field as opposed to a slow half-field offense, contributing to some highlight-reel offensive plays.

“It’s a very fast-paced, very exciting way to play, and that’s what they’re best at,” Corrigan said. “They really play 110 yards of lacrosse, and I think people will enjoy seeing that.”

Corrigan said capitalizing on opportunities will be important for Notre Dame to pull off the upset. Allowing a potent Orange offense second chances could create a big hole for the Irish, while converting offensive chances will be crucial in a game that could turn into a shootout.

“Defensively, when we get a stop, we need to translate that stop into a clear and an offensive possession,” Corrigan said. “Offensively, when we get an opportunity to score, we need to keep the pressure on them by getting our shots on cage and converting a number of those opportunities.”

The clash will also be televised nationally live in primetime on ESPNU, underscoring the magnitude of this game. The Irish look to feed on the excitement from the crowd to give them the boost required to qualify for postseason play, as they hope to close out the season in spectacular fashion.

“There’s no question it’s a game with a lot of excitement,” Corrigan said. “More than that, for us it’s a chance to establish ourselves as a clear tournament team.”

The Irish take on the Orange today at 7 p.m. in Arlotta Stadium.