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Men’s Lacrosse: Ending with a first

Mike Monaco | Monday, April 30, 2012

Three months after the men’s basketball team upset then-No. 1 Syracuse at Purcell Pavilion, the No. 3 Irish lacrosse squad got a similarly monumental win over the No. 17 Orange with an 8-6 victory Saturday at Arlotta Stadium.

Notre Dame (11-1, 6-0 Big East) defeated Syracuse (7-7, 3-3) for the first time in program history and ended the regular season on a 10-game win streak.

Despite the historic victory, Irish coach Kevin Corrigan said the team is simply happy to end the season on a positive note.

“It’s a great win for this team and a great win to end our regular season on a good note,” Corrigan said. “I have a feeling we’re going to see this team again in seven days [in the Big East tournament]. We’re just happy to get a [win] today and get out of there with that.”

The Irish got out to a quick start when sophomore midfielder Jim Marlatt ripped his 15th goal of the season into the top right corner of the cage less than two minutes into the game.

Later in the first quarter, sophomore attack Westy Hopkins and junior midfielder Ryan Foley added goals to make it a three-goal lead.

Corrigan said it was important for his team to come out of the gates strong and open with quick goals, especially against a squad in search of a noteworthy win.

“I thought that was really important for us in terms of being able to relax,” Corrigan said. “We knew they were going to come after us. This is a team that, like a lot of teams we’ve played recently, needs a win. At this point, we’re a good win. We knew they were going to come after us a little bit. I was glad to see our guys come out aggressively and [getting] that first goal kind of helps everybody relax.”

Junior midfielder Pat Cotter increased the lead to 4-0 in the second quarter and junior goalie John Kemp and the rest of the Irish defense shut out Syracuse for the remainder of the half. Kemp was recently named a nominee for the Tewaaraton Trophy, given to the most outstanding collegiate lacrosse player.

“John’s terrific,” Corrigan said. “He’s the best goalie in the country. He may be the best player in the country. I keep hearing all these people talk about all these offensive guys for the Tewaaraton and I’m wondering why John’s not part of that conversation. If you watch him every day, you sure think he’s terrific.”

The Orange came back in the second half, however, with two goals to make it 4-2. The teams battled back and forth for the rest of the quarter before Orange junior midfielder JoJo Marasco scored early in the fourth to cut the Irish lead to 6-4.

Orange coach John Desko said a change in shooting strategy prompted the comeback.

“We changed our shooting in the second half, which I thought was good,” Desko said. “We started to go up top after we shot a lot of them down low. We were able to crawl back in it.”

The teams exchanged goals early in the final quarter before Syracuse senior midfielder Bobby Eilers blasted a shot past Kemp at the 7:43 mark to bring the Orange within one at 7-6.

Just 33 seconds later Notre Dame freshman midfielder Will Corrigan came in from the right side and found the back of the cage to put the lead back at two.

For the last seven minutes of play the staunch Irish defense forced numerous turnovers in a tightly-contested final period that culminated in an 8-6 win for the Irish.

The win finalized an undefeated Big East season for Notre Dame, who now turns its attention to postseason play. The Irish will be the top seed in the Big East tournament when they take on St. John’s in the semifinals Thursday. Notre Dame defeated the Red Storm 13-6 on April 1.

“It’s going to be a challenge with St. John’s,” Kevin Corrigan said. “They’re a very good team. We just played them less than a month ago. The good news is we don’t need to start over in our preparation for somebody. For once in the season, we get to rely on already a little prior knowledge of somebody. It’s still going to be quite a challenge and they’ve been playing really well recently.”

Notre Dame begins its postseason play Thursday at 4:30 p.m. when it squares off with the Red Storm in the Big East semifinals in Villanova, Pa.

Contact Mike Monaco at jmonaco@nd.edu