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Men’s Lacrosse: No. 2 Irish look to defend perfect record

Joseph Monardo | Friday, April 15, 2011

Having emerged unscathed from hotly-contested home games against Big East opponents in their two most recent outings, the Irish will have to defend their undefeated record once again when they welcome St. John’s to Arlotta Stadium.

On Saturday, No. 2 Notre Dame (8-0, 3-0 Big East) will host St. John’s (4-6, 2-1 Big East) under the lights in the stadium’s second-ever night game. Though the Red Storm carry a losing record into the matchup, the Irish coaching staff realizes that its opponent will nevertheless present a challenge.

“St. John’s is like so many teams out there right now — they have got a lot of good players, they are very well coached, and they play extremely hard,” Irish coach Kevin Corrigan said. “The challenge does not change for us. We are going to play another good team that is dangerous and very capable of beating us.”

Taking their coach’s lead, the Irish are doing all they can to ensure they do not overlook St. John’s and show up ready to play come game time.

“Every team has a lot of talented guys, so I know it is cliché, but every game you could easily lose,” junior defense Kevin Randall said. “You have a whole week to prepare. There is really no reason to take a day lightly.”

For the Irish, preparation leading up to each game consists mainly of fine-tuning their own play rather than adjusting to the opposition’s, and this week has been no exception.

“We certainly prepare for the other team but we do not concentrate on the other team, we concentrate on our team, and we will continue to do that,” Corrigan said. “If we are worried about beating St. John’s today, then we are making a mistake. We need to worry about what is on our plate today, and that is correcting the things we need to correct with ourselves and working on becoming a better team.”

Already one of the nation’s top teams, Notre Dame’s attention to detail is sure to make it even more formidable in the final games of the regular season and likely deep into the postseason. The Irish are focusing especially on perfecting an offense that has shown flashes of brilliance but which has, at times, failed to impress.

“Offensively, we have just got to be more efficient,” Corrigan said. “We have had a combination of too many empty possessions and too many turnovers – [it] is making it hard on our offense. I think we have made some progress and I think we have a lot of potential offensively, but we have got to start finishing our opportunities and just be a little bit smarter with the ball.”

Even Notre Dame’s strong defense, which ranks second nationally with an average of only 6.13 goals surrendered per game, is called on to improve every week.

“Defensively, there is always room for improvement,” Randall said. “We gave up six goals last week, and I know a lot of teams would be happy with that, but we watched film and we realized that there are definitely still a lot of things that we can do better.”

The anchor of the Notre Dame defense, sophomore goalie John Kemp was named Big East Player of the Week for his performance against Georgetown last weekend, a game in which he recorded 12 saves. Kemp has filled in admirably for graduated All-American Scott Rodgers and ranks second in the nation in save percentage (.626) and third in goals against average (6.13).

“Last year we had Scotty, who was really good, so it is just really nice knowing that there has not been a drop off at all,” Randall said. “John is extremely calm. He is definitely not rattled at all — it is just great to have someone so confident in net.”

With all the pieces in place, the Irish should continue to improve as a team, Randall said.

“I just think as we play more together we will just continue to grow and understand each other, and that will help us become a better team,” he said.

The Irish look to continue moving in the right direction when they face off against St. John’s Saturday at 7 p.m.