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Men’s Lacrosse: Earl, No. 4 Irish slay Dragons

Joseph Monardo | Monday, March 7, 2011

When the Irish first filed out onto the turf of the Loftus Sports Complex for their home opener, back-up goalie Colt Power belted out a few notes on the bagpipes.

In the game that immediately followed, No. 4 Notre Dame’s (3-0) 11-7 win over No. 18 Drexel (1-2) somewhat resembled the tune of the bagpipe: powerful, intriguing and sometimes scary — but always enjoyable.

The Irish were without preseason All-American midfielder Zach Brenneman, who stayed on the bench after a hard-fought game at Penn State last week. His absence showed early, as Drexel executed with ease on offense and jumped out to a quick 3-0 lead.

Freshman attacker Westy Hopkins provided the Irish with a much needed spark when he scored with 4 seconds remaining in the first quarter, and senior co-captain David Earl added another goal three minutes into the second quarter. The Irish scored two more goals in the second quarter and carried a 4-3 lead into half time.

“They got a big three goal lead, but after that we settled down defensively and offensively,” Earl said. “We rushed a lot of stuff at the start of the game so we didn’t get much offense going, but throughout the game we were more patient and we were able to get some goals.”

In the second half, the Irish fell behind once again after surrendering three quick scores to the Dragons, who took a 6-5 lead into the fourth quarter.

A large part of Drexel’s success for most of the day was the play of their goalie, junior Mark Manos, who slammed the door shut on a number of promising Irish scoring opportunities.

“We just kept the pressure on him [Manos],” Irish coach Kevin Corrigan said. “In a game where you go down, and then you go down again, you can get a little timid and not be as aggressive and not willing to risk, but if you aren’t willing to risk anything then it’s hard to make plays in this game.”

Notre Dame’s aggressiveness paid off in the final quarter, as the team poured in six goals to Drexel’s one and secured the home win. The victory marks another important step for the Irish, as they navigate through an incredibly tough schedule in the early part of their season.”I don’t think anybody in the country has played three better teams than we have,” Corrigan said. “I’m proud of our guys. They’re getting their work done and battling hard on game days and the focus has been great so far.”

That they could defeat a top-20 team without arguably their best player is a reassuring sign for the Irish, but it is unclear how long Brenneman will be unable to play.

“Zach got a little banged up in the Penn State game,” Corrigan said. “We don’t know if we’ll have him back for next weekend or not. It wasn’t definitive coming into today really until yesterday so we’ll just take it day by day, and in the mean time we need other guys to step up like they did today.”

Also reassuring for the Irish was the support they received from their fans, as the largest crowd ever assembled in the Loftus Sports Complex turned out to watch the contest.

“It was good, it was nice to be home,” Earl said. “It was good to just be able to relax and be on our home turf. It’s nice being indoors, it’s a lot louder than being outside. It’s always fun to play in front of a crowd, especially at home.”