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Men’s Lacrosse: Big finish

Megan Golden | Friday, April 27, 2012

No. 3 Notre Dame will take the field against No. 17 Syracuse on Saturday as it looks for its 10th consecutive win in its final Big East game of the regular season.

The Irish (10-1, 5-0 Big East) are coming off yet another impressive defensive outing against Villanova, a team that outscored the Orange (7-6, 3-2) on March 25 by a score of 11-10.

Notre Dame’s offense has heated up over the past five contests, averaging over 10 goals per game. The Irish will face a Syracuse team that ranks fifth in the country in forced turnovers, causing an average of 9.38 turnovers per game.

“They are a big, strong athletic team, and that’s probably the thing that concerns me the most,” Irish coach Kevin Corrigan said. “You recognize their athleticism.”

Syracuse and Notre Dame play with opposite offensive styles. The Irish typically run set plays and wear down the defense with long possessions, while the Orange prefer to attack on the fast break and score in transition.

Corrigan said Syracuse’s athleticism will challenge the Irish defensively.

“We have to do a good job in defending them in all the variety of situations where they’re really good and their athleticism is really effective, where they’re almost [impossible to defend],” he said. “They’re very effective in transition and situations where they catch you four-on-four or five-on-five and kind of athletically take advantage of you.”

Syracuse’s unconventional offense will face a Notre Dame team that leads the country in scoring defense, allowing an average of just 5.73 goals per game.

Irish junior goalkeeper John Kemp said he believes defense is the key to winning games.

“I think you have to have a good defense to get far, especially in playoffs. That’s brought us pretty far, and the offense has done quite well recently,” he said. “Defense has been important late in the season because that’s what wins championships.”

The Orange have won seven titles over the past 20 seasons, and four of those championships have come in the past 10 years. The Tewaaraton Trophy has been awarded to a Syracuse player three times since the honor was founded in 2000.

Corrigan said his team will treat the Orange just like every other team it has faced thus far, despite Syracuse’s championship heritage.

“They’ve been one of the top three or four programs in the history of our sport. That’s their legacy,” Corrigan said. “The good thing is we don’t have to face all those [former Syracuse] teams. We just have to play the one we meet on Saturday. Their program is almost unparalleled.”

Corrigan said the Irish are excited to play in front of a packed house at Arlotta Stadium.

“I think more than anything else it’s a great experience for our guys,” he said. “How many chances do you get to play in front of a sold-out crowd and a national television audience? They’re excited about the experience, but we’ve played in a lot of big games the last few years, and we intend to play in more.”

Notre Dame will try to extend its winning streak to 10 games when it hosts Syracuse at 5 p.m. at Arlotta Stadium. The game will be televised on ESPNU.

Contact Megan Golden at mgolde01@saintmarys.edu