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Men’s Lacrosse: Meadow Bound

Sam Gans | Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Super Bowl-winning New York Giants, U2 and Notre Dame don’t appear to have much in common. But after Sunday, all will have played at least once at state-of-the-art MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J.

The No. 6 Irish will head to the Meadowlands to take on St. John’s in the Big City Classic this weekend. The game will be the first of a tripleheader with Johns Hopkins, North Carolina, Syracuse and Duke also participating.

This is the fourth year of the Big City Classic, but the game against the Red Storm (5-3, 1-1 Big East) marks the first time the Irish (6-1, 1-0) have played in the event. Though the game will be played in an NFL stadium and in front of a large crowd ¾ the first three years each drew more than 22,000 spectators ¾ Irish coach Kevin Corrigan is trying to keep his team’s focus on the task at hand.

“I think it’s a great place to play and it’s fun to be part of an event like this, but our focus is just on playing St. John’s,” Corrigan said. “The field is the same dimensions as every other one we play on. We can’t get caught up in thinking about anything other than what St. John’s does and what we need to do against them.”

St. John’s comes into Sunday’s matchup already possessing more wins than last season’s 4-10 team. Sophomore attack Kieran McArdle leads the team with 29 points, while senior midfielder Terence Leach ¾ the reigning Big East Offensive Player of the Week ¾ paces the Red Storm at 16 goals on the season. On the other side of the field, junior goaltender Jeff Lowman ranks in the top-15 in the country in save percentage.

“I think [St. John’s is] a very talented team,” Corrigan said. “They’re young and they’ve been playing mostly the same guys for the last two years and probably will have most of those same guys in the same spots again next year. I think this is a team that is still finding itself, but that has a lot of talent and I think they’re going to win a lot of games in the next couple of years.”

The Irish, who enter on a five-game winning streak, have picked up their offensive production over the past three games, including scoring a season-high 12 goals in a win over Rutgers last Sunday.

The defensive end, however, has taken a step back during that same stretch. After surrendering 17 total goals in the first four games, the Irish have allowed 25 total goals in the past three contests, which took place over an eight-day span from March 18 through March 25.

Corrigan believes a way to return back to early-season form is for the Irish to concentrate more on themselves instead of the opposition.

“We had three games in eight days, and the good news is we played well enough to win all three of them. The bad news is we lost a little bit of ourselves in the course of that week preparing for three games,” Corrigan said. “I think we got a little bit away from who we are, and there’s nothing more important in my mind than us having a great understanding of ourselves.

“Maybe it’s on me for spending too much time talking about the teams we’re playing, and not enough talking about ourselves. When we’re at our best is when we play with a real good sense of ourselves and real smart, sound fundamental lacrosse.”

Notre Dame takes on St. John’s in the Big City Classic at 1 p.m. Sunday in East Rutherford, N.J.

Contact Sam Gans at sgans@nd.edu