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Men’s Lacrosse: Irish mount comeback win against Wildcats

Joseph Monardo | Monday, April 4, 2011

As Irish players, coaches and fans milled about the turf of Arlotta Stadium after Saturday’s game, Kool and the Gang’s 1980s song “Celebration” blared from the loudspeakers, encapsulating the general sentiment after the Notre Dame’s 12-8 win over Villanova.

The No. 2 Irish (7-0, 2-0) outscored No. 8 Villanova (7-3, 0-2) three goals to none in the final quarter to secure a comeback win in a physical match.

Notre Dame fell behind early following a Wildcat goal less than three minutes into the game, but Irish junior attack Nicholas Beattie quickly responded with his own minutes later to even the score.

Villanova regained control of the game shortly thereafter, scoring three consecutive goals as the Irish gave away a number of turnovers and struggled for most of the opening quarter. Irish coach Kevin Corrigan said his team’s early struggles were largely a product of the opposition’s play.

“Villanova is very good, and they are hard to play against,” he said. “I thought our guys did a great job this week preparing us for it, but it is still different when you get in the game and it is their guys, and they are tough to defend.”

The Irish netted a goal with 24 seconds remaining in the first quarter, but fell behind 5-2 after they allowed a Villanova goal three minutes into the second quarter.

Cue the comeback.

In the final 12 minutes of the half, Notre Dame embarked on a run that showcased the prowess responsible for its undefeated record. The team rattled off five straight goals to capture a 7-5 lead before the break. Notre Dame’s ability to mount such a comeback is a credit to the Irish players’ ability to react to the opposing team’s style of play, Corrigan said.

“Our guys recognized what they were doing and really moved the ball well today,” he said. “Our guys did a great job of not holding the ball … and letting the ball do the work. You are tough to defend when you do that.”

Villanova continued to challenge the Irish for the remainder of the game, tying the score in the third quarter. After two goals in 12 seconds’ time by freshman attack Westy Hopkins, though, Notre Dame regained the lead, this time for good.

Hopkins and senior attack Colin Igoe both recorded hat tricks on the day, and senior captain and midfielder Zach Brenneman added one assist and two goals. Brenneman displayed his All-American, but did much more than just fill up the stats column as he played persistent defense and dove in pursuit of a player on multiple occasions.

With a leader of Brenneman’s caliber and the talented roster they have, the Irish figure to be in the mix for the national championship for the second straight year, Igoe said.

“We really have something special this year and we are keeping it going. We don’t have any selfish guys on the field,” Igoe said.

The Irish are careful not to get ahead of themselves, though, realizing they still have five more regular season games, including a showdown with No. 1 Syracuse scheduled for April 30. Downplaying the importance of his team’s most recent win, Corrigan emphasized that the Irish will have to keep working hard and improving to get where they want to go this year.

“We are so excited about it that we are coming back to practice tomorrow at 2:30 p.m., because we have got to get back to work,” he said. “We are playing some of our best lacrosse the last two games, and we want to keep getting better. This is a great win, but in the middle of the season, you don’t sit back and chalk up which ones are big wins and which ones are not.”

Still, Igoe could not refrain from reveling in the moment as he praised his defensive counterparts for yet another successful performance in front of sophomore goalie John Kemp, who notched 11 saves in the game.

“Our defense has been our anchor since I have been here for four years, and we are going to rely on them for every game,” he said. “Best defense in the country.”

Corrigan appreciated Igoe’s enthusiasm, but aimed to avoid such sweeping statements.

“I think we can be,” he said. “That will prove itself out, those are things you talk about at the end. Right now, we are playing our tail off.”