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Men’s Lacrosse: Roommates shine in starting debuts

Mike Monaco | Monday, February 20, 2012

What were you and your roommate doing on Saturday?

Whatever it was, it probably didn’t consist of knocking off the No. 2 lacrosse team in the nation with a 7-3 win in your first varsity appearance.

Sophomores midfielder Jim Marlatt and defenseman Stephen O’Hara did just that Saturday. In their collegiate debuts, O’Hara started for the Irish defense and helped hold the potent Blue Devil attack to three goals, while Marlatt received significant playing time in the midfield and responded with two goals.

The roommates were happy to be a part of a winning effort against Duke, Marlatt said.

“We hadn’t played in over a year in a game that mattered,” Marlatt said. “The coaches prepared us well and it was a big game. The first game is always big, but when you’re playing your rival it’s even bigger.”

O’Hara got the starting nod for the Irish (1-0) and played a key role in holding the Blue Devils (1-1) scoreless for over 40 minutes. After feeling a little nervous before his debut,

O’Hara said he settled in even after the Irish went down 2-0.

“I was a little nervous at first considering how big of a game it was and also since it was my first time playing,” O’Hara said. “I thought we stayed pretty calm even though we were down two goals.”

Marlatt buried two goals in the back of the cage behind Duke junior goalie Dan Wigrizer to help lead the Irish offense. His second goal, which came with 5:59 left in the fourth quarter, seemed to put the game out of reach as Notre Dame took a commanding 6-2 lead. Marlatt also admitted to feeling pregame nerves, but said those anxieties were alleviated by the preparation of the coaching staff and the rest of the team.

“We were definitely nervous after not playing at all last year,” Marlatt said. “Everyone was, really, since it was our first game. But the way we practiced ¬⎯ so hard and so intense ⎯ made the game pretty easy. The coaching staff did such a good job preparing us that we felt pretty confident by game time.”

Both players were understandably excited to find success in their first career appearances, but O’Hara and Marlatt both were quick to note the win was a total team effort.

“I think we were very well-prepared,” O’Hara said. “We knew mostly what to expect out of Duke. With the way coach [Gerry] Byrne teaches us to play [defense], we have one of the best defenses in the country with nine or 10 guys who all play great, and especially with [junior goalie] John Kemp in net.”

Marlatt echoed a similar team-centric sentiment.

“[My] first goal was a great look from [sophomore attack] Westy [Hopkins],” Marlatt said. “He was more of a finisher last year. That was his first career assist, so it was cool to help him out with that, and the second one was a great look by [junior midfielder Ryan] Foley … They were both products of good offense.”

Saturday’s performances by Marlatt and O’Hara were far cries from their freshman campaigns, when neither played, much less traveled to away games. But the sophomores both said they realized that the struggle was part of the transition to collegiate lacrosse and learned from the experience.

“Last season, 10 of us [then-freshmen] didn’t travel with the team to away games,” Marlatt said. “So it was frustrating. We were all used to playing every day in high school, but we got through it together. [O’Hara] had two all-Americans ahead of him on defense and I had two all-American midfielders ahead of me, so we learned by watching them play.”

O’Hara added the freshman campaign provided an opportunity to acclimate to the collegiate game, a significant learning curve.

“Last year was more of a learning experience,” he said. “We focused on learning the system and getting used to the speed of the college game compared to high school. Watching the guys ahead of us last year compete really set the tone for this year.”

Getting past the first game was important, Marlatt said. Now the roommates are hoping to build off their strong debuts against Duke. The first opportunity to continue their newfound success comes Sunday against Penn St.

“Just getting that first game out of the way really helps us as far as nerves go,” Marlatt said. “From a team perspective, the first game is big, but now we have to focus on Penn St. …

Our coaching staff does a good job of getting us focused and prepared week-to-week.”

Starting a winning streak is on O’Hara’s mind as well.

“[Saturday] was a good win, especially to get one under our belt,” O’Hara said. “But we can’t get too cocky. We need to keep building and keep getting better for the rest of the season. We play a tough team every week, so we have to keep it up throughout the whole year and use it in the playoffs.”

Contact Mike Monaco at jmonaco@nd.edu