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Men’s Lacrosse: Irish defend perfect record

Joseph Monardo | Friday, March 25, 2011

Well, they aren’t perfect. Their goalie is inexperienced, their offense lacks consistency over four periods and their defense is prone to allowing opposing teams to score in bunches. And yet, as they sit at 5-0, it is undeniable that the Irish are, in fact, perfect.

The No. 3 Irish look to maintain their undefeated record as they prepare to face Rutgers (5-2) in Piscataway, N.J., during their first Big East game of the season.

After a gritty win over Ohio State Wednesday, in which the Irish relied on a last-minute goal by junior attack Sean Rogers to capture a victory, Irish coach Kevin Corrigan said this year’s squad has room for improvement.

“We’re not going to beat ourselves up,” Corrigan said, “but we just need to keep working to be the team that we think we can be, and I do not want our guys to settle for less than what we think we can be as a team…we know we can play better, and hopefully we are all focused and working on doing that.”

The team’s competitiveness, a trait that has proven incredibly valuable against higher-level opposition, has sustained Notre Dame’s perfect record despite imperfect play.

Four of Notre Dame’s first five opponents are currently ranked in the top-20 nationally, and the fifth, Drexel, has received multiple votes for a national ranking.

“Competitively, our guys have done a great job,” Corrigan said. “I am excited for them that they have found a way to do that.”

Consistently finding themselves in tight match-ups with talented teams, the Irish rely on outhustling the opposition to tough out the win.

“Our big thing is always working hard, playing as hard as we can,” freshman faceoff specialist Liam O’Connor said.

“Sometimes we are not playing that well but we always try to make the hustle play and get the next ground ball.”

Their extensive experience in tight situations should give the Irish a decided advantage over Rutgers if the game proves close. The Scarlet Knights’ seven games have been decided by an average of 7.7 goals per game difference between the winner and loser. For the Irish, that number is 2.6.

“I think [our experience] helps us a lot when it gets down to the wire,” O’Connor said. “We tend to keep our poise in the fourth quarter in those close games and make sure that we keep ourselves under control and make sure we have enough poise to make that last play, to get that last goal.”

Still, Corrigan realizes that Rutgers will offer a substantial challenge to his battle-tested Irish team.

“They are a young team, but they are very well-coached,” Corrigan said. “They have a really good sense of themselves and how they want to play, so I think we will see a kind of ball-control game where they will try to limit the possessions and make us work at both ends of the field, probably not dissimilar to what we just saw with the Ohio State game.”

Corrigan says he hopes his team will show improvement from Wednesday’s game against the Buckeyes. In particular, he wants to see his players demonstrate increased consistency on both offense and defense.

“I think our offensive consistency and our ability to finish our opportunities are the two things that I’d like to see us improve on the most,” he said. “Defensively, [the goal is] just to play 60 minutes. I think we have played some outstanding defense at times but then we have given up some goals and runs and I would like to see us eliminate that.”

The Irish will take the field against Rutgers Saturday at noon.