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Men’s Lacrosse: Despite loss to Syracuse, Notre Dame headed to tournament

Allan Joseph | Thursday, May 13, 2010

An inconsistent season did not stop Notre Dame from earning its fifth consecutive trip to the NCAA tournament.

The Irish (7-6, 2-4 Big East) began the season on a three-game win streak. Notre Dame then lost two, won two, lost three and won two, before closing the regular season with a loss to Syracuse.

“It’s been a mixed bag,” Irish coach Kevin Corrigan said. “We’ve played very, very well at times and we’ve played not well at times.”

The Irish entered the season with high expectations, coming off a 2009 campaign that included an undefeated regular season and the Great Western Lacrosse League’s regular-season and tournament titles. Maryland upset Notre Dame in the first round of the NCAA tournament, giving the Irish a 15-1 record in the best season in program history and setting high expectations for the 2010 season. Adding to the anticipation was the inaugural season of the Big East conference in men’s lacrosse, with seven traditional conference rivals (Syracuse, Georgetown, Villanova, Notre Dame, Rutgers, St. John’s and Providence) forming the inaugural lineup, as well as the opening of Arlotta Stadium, the new state-of-the-art home of Irish lacrosse.

The season-opening trip to then-No. 2 Duke confirmed the Irish’s ability to live up to these expectations, as they never trailed in vanquishing the Blue Devils by the score of 11-7. Two weeks later, Notre Dame again won a marquee matchup against then-No. 10 Loyola in Baltimore, 11-9. After the hot start to the season, however, inconsistency began to rear its ugly head, and the Irish only showed flashes of the form they had displayed at the season’s start.

“It’s a little surprising in that you generally don’t have the inconsistency we’ve been having, not just between games but within games,” Corrigan said.

The Irish won only two games in Big East play, though three of their conference losses were by a combined six goals. Notre Dame’s season finale against second-ranked Syracuse, broadcast on national television, went to the Orange 12-6 as the Irish fell behind 5-0 in the first quarter and never recovered.

Despite the disappointing fourth-place finish in the Big East, Notre Dame qualified for the NCAA tournament on the basis of its three wins over other tournament teams and drew No. 6-seeded Princeton, whom the Irish will visit Sunday.

“They’re very talented, and they’ve got a lot of different guys who can make plays,” Corrigan said. “They’ve got what it takes, and it’s going to be quite a challenge.”

To win, Notre Dame will need big games from season-long standouts David Earl and Kevin Ridgway.

“Earl has been consistently good. He’s done so many things for us,” Corrigan said. “Ridgway’s been playing the other team’s best player week in and week out.”

The team has shrugged off the inconsistent regular season and has bought into the “second season” mentality, looking for a fresh start in postseason play to give themselves a chance at a run deep into the tournament.

“We’ve gone back to work,” Corrigan said. “The guys have really applied themselves, and now everyone’s back to 0-0.”