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Men’s Lacrosse: National Championship rematch opens Irish season

Allan Joseph | Sunday, December 19, 2010

In exactly two months, No. 7 Notre Dame will get its shot at revenge when it takes on No. 4 Duke in the 2011 season opener on Feb. 20. Notre Dame’s 2010 slate ended when the Blue Devils defeated the Irish 6-5 in overtime in the NCAA Championship game. The Irish released their 2011 slate this week, and it reflects the scheduling philosophy that took Notre Dame to the title game last year.

In 2009, the Irish faced a fairly easy schedule and breezed through it, going 15-0 in the regular season before suffering a shocking upset at the hands of Maryland in the opener of the NCAA Tournament. In 2010, however, Notre Dame scheduled a significantly tougher slate and paid the price, finishing 7-6, including a 2-4 record in the first season of Big East competition. That tough schedule resulted in postseason dividends, however, as the Irish toughened up and gritted out three tough victories before falling heartbreakingly close in the title clash.

Irish coach Kevin Corrigan has put together another difficult road for his squad in 2011. After an exhibition match against the United States National Team in January, Notre Dame clashes with Duke in Florida before playing traditional foe Penn State. A slew of familiar nonconference opponents follows, including a home-opener against No. 17 Drexel, a trip to No. 14 Denver, and a home date against Ohio State. The Big East schedule follows, including meetings with No. 20 Villanova and No. 13 Georgetown at home and a conference finale at second-ranked Syracuse. There will be one more big-time game after the conference slate as well, as the Irish travel to No. 3 North Carolina in May. All told, the Irish face seven of the other 19 teams in the preseason coaches’ top-20 poll.

Though the Irish return five preseason All-Americans, including first-team seniors Zach Brenneman – a midfielder – and Kevin Ridgway – a defender, the season-long challenge will be replacing two-time All-American and NCAA Championship MVP goalie Scott Rodgers, now playing professionally. Sophomore John Kemp saw limited action in the cage last spring and will be competing with junior Colt Power for the starting gig.

The Irish will look to return to the national championship game this year and break through after coming agonizingly close last year and collect a Big East title on their way to doing so. Their quest begins in Florida against defending champion Duke on Feb. 20, with the squad’s home-opener on March 6 against Drexel.