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Men’s Lacrosse: Irish survive early deficit against Nova

Mike Monaco | Monday, April 23, 2012

Maybe this team should try to give up first-half goals.

A week after overcoming a 5-1 halftime deficit to beat Georgetown, the No. 4 Irish scored eight unanswered goals after being down 4-0 during the first quarter, and never looked back en route to a 10-7 victory over No. 11 Villanova on Saturday at Villanova Stadium.

The familiarity of the situation helped Notre Dame settle down and make a comeback after allowing the four early goals, senior attack Sean Rogers said.

“I wasn’t surprised at all [when we got down],” Rogers said. “We had been in that situation multiple times before against St. John’s and Georgetown … So we were really pretty relaxed and not worried at all.”

Notre Dame (10-1, 5-0 Big East) won its ninth-consecutive game, and clinched the top seed in next month’s Big East championship along the way.

The Wildcats (8-5, 4-1) opened up a quick 4-0 lead just more than 10 minutes into the game, with goals from four different players. With 4:18 remaining in the opening quarter, freshman attack Conor Doyle began the Irish comeback with his eighth goal of the season.

Rogers then scored the first of his three goals with 8:57 to play in the first half to make it a 4-2 game. The score remained that way at the halfway point. Going into the game, the Irish were 3-0 when trailing at halftime.

“I mean obviously, it’s not good to be down, but if you think about it from a defensive standpoint, we have confidence just because we have [come back] before,” junior goalie John Kemp said. “Our offense has really picked it up as the season has progressed, and at halftime, we realized we were getting what we wanted in terms of shots and opportunities. We just weren’t really cashing in.”

Right on cue, the Irish came out of the locker room with two quick goals from Rogers and senior midfielder Max Pfeifer to tie the game at four with 13:47 remaining in the third. Four minutes later, Rogers gave Notre Dame its first lead of the evening, as he completed his hat trick.

Goals from freshman midfielder Will Corrigan and junior midfielders Pat Cotter and Ryan Foley extended the lead to 8-4 before Villanova senior midfielder C.J. Small broke a 39:13 scoreless draught, scoring with just under 11 minutes remaining.

The Irish responded just 26 seconds later when junior midfielder Tyler Kimball sent home a shot to bring the lead back to four.

The Wildcats scored two goals to make it 9-7 with 9:18 left to play, but Kemp and the rest of the defense shut out Villanova for the remainder of the game.

Kemp said the improved defensive performance was simply a result of the defense regaining its composure.

“I think we just got settled down,” Kemp said. “We had a couple mishaps on the slides and communication in the first quarter, but we settled down. It was a big away game with a big crowd, but that’s not an excuse. We just settled down, to be honest.”

Sophomore attack Westy Hopkins put the finishing touches on the win with his 10th goal of the season with about 90 seconds left.

The win was the fifth against ranked opponents this season for the Irish, something that will prove helpful in future matchups with ranked opponents, both in the regular season and beyond, Rogers said.

“It definitely helps us playing teams like Duke, Denver, Villanova and Georgetown, because you get used to these tough battles where you really have to step up at the end of the game,” Rogers said. “It will really pay dividends in the playoffs, because our team has confidence down the stretch.”

The Irish will look for that confidence to pay off when they try to run their winning streak to 10 games in a matchup against No. 14 Syracuse on Saturday at 5 p.m. at Arlotta Stadium. The game will be broadcast on ESPNU.


Contact Mike Monaco at jmonaco@nd.edu