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Men’s Lacrosse: Defending the castle

Mike Monaco | Thursday, March 22, 2012

Coming off a rare midweek game Wednesday against Ohio State, the No. 6 Irish open up Big East play and look to make it five wins in a row when they host Rutgers on Sunday.

The Irish (5-1) have now won four consecutive one-goal games, including an 8-7 win over the Buckeyes (3-5) in their first weekday game of the season. Before moving on to Rutgers (4-4), though, Irish coach Kevin Corrigan said the team needs to rest and recover after two hard-fought games in four days.

“The first thing we do is we take a day off,” Corrigan said. “[The players] need that right now. They need to get back and relax and get back to school and take care of the other things that they need to take care of. We’ll [practice] Friday and Saturday, and with no school Saturday, that gives us some extra time.”

In addition to extra time to prepare, the Irish have more knowledge of the opposition and their own team. Corrigan said this extra familiarity makes preparation for teams such as the Scarlet Knights easier as they delve into the second half of the regular season.

“We have to turn the page, and it’s that time of year,” Corrigan said. “We’ve started to see a lot of things from the first six [weeks] that make preparing much easier. First, you have more film on the opposition, and you’ve seen a lot of things they do. Second, you have a better sense of yourself. I think we’ll have plenty of time to get ready for Rutgers.”

The Scarlet Knights are coming off a trio of one-goal games in their own right, including Saturday’s 7-6 loss to St. John’s. Senior co-captain and midfielder Will Mangan, who was named the Big East Offensive Player of the Week on Monday, leads the team with 20 goals, including four hat tricks. Corrigan said he knows Notre Dame will have to defend players like Mangan, but he feels his team will be well prepared.

“They’ve got a lot of the guys that we had to defend against last year,” Corrigan said. “We know that they’ve got a new coach, and our [assistant coach] Brian Fisher has done a good job of watching them and breaking them down, so our guys will have a good idea of who they are by this weekend.”

With Rutgers averaging 8.50 goals per game, the Notre Dame defense will need to turn in another stout performance. The Irish have given up an average of 5.50 goals per game, and have held the opposition to five goals or less in four games.

On the offensive end of the field, the Irish have ratcheted up their scoring recently, with 10 goals against Denver and eight against the Buckeyes. It has been a well-balanced attack thus far, with 16 different players finding the back of the cage this season. This balance has been one of the keys to the recent offensive outburst, according to senior attack Sean Rogers.

“I think we’re doing better [recently] because there are a lot more people contributing,” Rogers said. “Instead of just having one or two guys contribute, we’ve had games like Ohio State, where we had four guys score their first goal of either their career or season. We’ve also been more patient putting shots on cage and that’s led to better results.”

Between the newfound offensive potency and the reliable defense, Corrigan said he is pleased with where the Irish stand heading into the Rutgers game.

“I like where we are,” Corrigan said. “We’ve shown the capacity to do everything well and that is a tremendous thing. During the Denver game we needed to score goals and we scored 10 goals. [Against Ohio State] we needed to make some plays at both ends of the field and on the face-offs and we did …We’ve found a lot of ways to be effective and when you add all the pieces together it bodes well for us moving forward.”

Notre Dame looks to extend its winning streak when it takes on Rutgers at 1 p.m. at Arlotta Stadium on Sunday.


Contact Mike Monaco at jmonaco@nd.edu