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Men’s Lacrosse: Second-half surge

Matthew Robison | Monday, April 16, 2012

Despite trailing 5-1 at halftime Sunday, the No. 6 Irish dominated the third and fourth quarters to rally for a 9-7 victory over Georgetown on the road.

Notre Dame (9-1, 4-0 Big East) had its opportunities early, but could not capitalize. Senior midfielder Eric Keppeler scored the lone first-half goal off a feed from junior midfielder Steve Murphy.

“We had some good opportunities, particularly in the first quarter, and just couldn’t seem to get any in the back of the net,” Irish coach Kevin Corrigan said.

In the third quarter, the Irish picked up the defensive pressure and knocked Georgetown (5-6, 1-3) out of its comfort zone.

“The other thing was our defense played very well,” Corrigan said. “[Junior goaltender] John Kemp was outstanding. And we got ground balls. So because of that, we dominated the time of possession in the third quarter, and kind of got them out of a rhythm and got ourselves into one.”

The second-half scoring came from eight different players, as Keppeler added a second tally, while senior attack Sean Rogers, senior midfielder and tri-captain Max Pfeifer, sophomore attack Ryan Mix, freshman attack Westy Hopkins, junior attack Ryan Foley, senior long-stick midfielder Bobby Smith and sophomore midfielder Jim Marlatt all found the back of the net in the period as well. Smith’s goal was the first of his career.

Corrigan said he was pleased to see such well-rounded scoring, especially from players who might not usually find their name on the scoresheet.

“I think it means a lot to us, because we all feel like that’s who we are as a team,” Corrigan said. “We have a lot of guys who can make plays.”

Some teams center their offenses around one player. The Irish do not have a go-to scorer and nobody who will light up the scoreboard with four or five goals on any given day. But their identity is a squad who has capable scorers from top to bottom. Production comes in across the board.

“We don’t have any one guy who we can saddle up and ride,” Corrigan said. “I think that’s when we’re at our best, when we get contributions from a lot of people like that. That not only means a lot of people are scoring, but it means that we’re sharing the ball and playing in a way where a lot of people have opportunities to score.”

So far, Notre Dame has gone through its Big East schedule unscathed, with its only loss coming in overtime to Penn State on Feb. 26. The Irish now have two regular season games remaining – a matchup at No. 12 Villanova on April 21 and a regular season finale with No. 1 Syracuse at home April 28.

But going undefeated in the conference is not something Corrigan has made an explicit goal. Rather, the Irish prepare for each opponent one at a time.

“It’s not something I’ve focused on a ton,” Corrigan said. “We’ve just really tried to play each game as it comes. We did a great job of getting out of the early stretch of our season with a lot of good teams. So far so good in the Big East, but still two really good teams to play.”

The results of the Big East standings have implications for the conference tournament from May 3 to 5 in Villanova, Pa., as well as the NCAA tournament, which begins May 12.

However, Notre Dame is only focused on what is directly in front of them.

“[Postseason seeding] is not something that we’re looking at, other than who’s next and what the next challenge is,” Corrigan said. “Next up for us is a very good Villanova.”

Notre Dame will square off against the Wildcats at Villanova on Saturday at 5:30 p.m.

Contact Matthew Robison at mrobison@nd.edu