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Men’s Lacrosse: Notre Dame tops Yale, prepares for Virginia

Sam Gans | Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The 2012 season continued the successful run the Irish have embarked on in recent years, marking the seventh consecutive NCAA tournament appearance for Notre Dame and the third season in a row the Irish advanced to the NCAA quarterfinals. And the year’s not even over yet.

After defeating Yale 13-7 in the first round of the NCAA tournament last Sunday, the No. 4 seed Irish (12-2) will face No. 5 seed Virginia (12-3) this Sunday for the chance to play in their second Final Four in three seasons.

The success the Irish have experienced up to this point can be largely attributed to the play of the defensive unit, in particular senior defenseman Kevin Randall and junior goalie John Kemp. Randall was named the Big East’s Defensive Player of the Year. Kemp, who recorded 12 saves in the win over the Bulldogs (11-5), is ranked first in the nation in save percentage and leads the country’s top-ranked scoring defense, which allows just 5.92 goals per game.

“[Defense has] been something we’ve been good at for a while and certainly John is a huge piece of that puzzle,” Irish coach Kevin Corrigan said. “We play really sound, fundamental, smart defense so we don’t make a ton of mistakes but we make mistakes. And when we make them, they still have to beat John.”

Though Notre Dame’s season is not yet complete, there have already been some first-time accomplishments achieved. The Irish notched their first ever victory over historical power Syracuse with an 8-6 win in Arlotta Stadium on April 28. Notre Dame fell in the Big East semifinals to St. John’s on May 3, but the Irish did take home their first-ever Big East regular season championship since joining the league in 2010 with an undefeated regular season record in conference play.

While the defense has received most of the spotlight, the offense also displayed its balance as the season has progressed. After a slow offensive start to the year, including a 4-3 overtime loss to Penn State in the season’s second game, the Irish found greater offensive variety in the second half of the 2012 campaign.

Sophomore midfielder Jim Marlatt and senior attack Sean Rogers, who both were named to the 2012 All-Big East first team, have emerged as the top two offensive threats, but they have received quite a bit of help. In seven of the last nine games, at least seven different players have scored goals, and overall, 20 different Irish players have found the back of the net this season.

“When we lost at the end of last year, we talked about the identity of our team being a little bit more of no stars but a lot of guys that can make plays and a lot of guys that can contribute,” Corrigan said. “If we play the right way, [balanced scoring] will happen.”

The play of the Irish defense and ability for the offense to continue its balanced scoring will likely be what determines if Notre Dame gets past the Cavaliers. Virginia is led by senior attack Steele Stanwick, who won the 2011 Tewaaraton Trophy as the most outstanding player in college lacrosse.

“I’ve watched them very casually, in all honesty,” Corrigan said. “It wasn’t a team we had on our schedule so I’ve seen them play on TV a couple of times and I did watch [Sunday’s win over Princeton] with a little bit of interest.

“They’re an athletic team with a lot of excellent skill players and you’ve got to survive the middle of the field against Virginia. They can’t run roughshod through the middle of the field or you’re going to be in trouble.”

The Irish and Cavaliers square off Sunday at noon in the NCAA quarterfinals from Philadelphia. The game will be televised on ESPNU.

Contact Sam Gans at sgans@nd.edu