Men’s Lacrosse: No. 11 Villanova to host No. 4 ND
Megan Golden | Friday, April 20, 2012
After winning its eighth consecutive game against Georgetown, No. 4 Notre Dame continues Big East play on the road at No. 11 Villanova on Saturday.
The Irish offense rallied to erase a four-goal halftime deficit versus the Hoyas (5-6, 1-2 Big East) last weekend, as they extended their winning streak to remain undefeated in four road games this season.
Notre Dame senior attack Sean Rogers said he is confident that the Irish (9-1, 4-0) will build off Sunday’s successful second half, and play aggressively against Villanova (8-4, 4-0).
“[Outscoring Villanova] is going to take our defense doing their job and holding them below 10 [goals], which will be a tough task to do,” he said. “We have to do what we’ve been doing. If we just keep playing the way we have been, we’ll score enough goals to win the game.”
Like the Irish, the Wildcats have been tested several times this season and hold a 3-3 record against ranked opponents. In those contests, Villanova averaged more than 10 goals per game.
Both the Irish and the Wildcats fell to unranked Penn State, a loss that stands as Notre Dame’s lone defeat of the season.
Notre Dame leads the country in scoring defense, allowing an average of just 5.47 goals per game.
Rogers said the Irish defense is capable of stopping the talented Wildcats and their Big East-leading 11.0 goals per game.
“The defense has been the best in the country,” Rogers said. “It definitely gives the offense confidence, and you know you can afford to be aggressive because the defense has our back.”
Despite Notre Dame’s impressive defensive performance thus far, Villanova’s offense will present a challenge to the Irish. Unlike the majority of teams Notre Dame has faced this season, the Wildcats do not have a set playbook.
The matchup will feature Wildcats senior midfielder Matt Bell, who was named Big East Offensive Player of the Week on Monday, and Notre Dame junior goalkeeper John Kemp, the reigning Big East Defensive Player of the Week.
Kemp has started all 14 games for the Irish this season, and is averaging 9.9 saves per game for the year.
“He is our best player. We would not be in the position we are if it wasn’t for John Kemp,” Rogers said. “We have a phenomenal defense, and even when teams make great plays and beat them, just knowing you have Kemp in the cage boosts the entire team’s confidence. He doesn’t give away too many cheap ones.”
Rogers said Notre Dame has discovered a leader in Kemp, who has earned the nickname “honey badger” from his teammates.
“He’s so relaxed, and nothing seems to rattle him. Added pressure does not faze him at all,” Rogers said. “His demeanor definitely rubs off on the rest of the team. You know he won’t lose his head if he lets up a goal. That’s important against ranked teams, because they are going to score goals.”
Looking for their ninth-straight win, the Irish will face the Wildcats on Saturday at 5:30 p.m. in Villanova, Pa.
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