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Men’s Lacrosse: Irish open season with win over No. 4 Duke

Matthew Robison | Monday, February 18, 2013

Junior midfielder Jim Marlatt exploded for a career-high five goals and freshman attackman Matt Kavanagh added four more in his first career game as No. 3 Notre Dame knocked off No. 4 Duke 13-5 on the road in the team’s season opener.

As a team centered around its All-American goaltender and stifling defense, Notre Dame (1-0) effectively shut down Duke’s (1-2) offensive attack in Durham, N.C., on Saturday.

“I thought our guys just made really good decisions,” Irish coach Kevin Corrigan said. “I thought [senior goaltender] John Kemp played really well. I thought the combination of those two things was pretty effective.”

The first game of the season can expose some weaknesses in teams, but Notre Dame has now won 11 straight season openers, and has now beaten Duke to open the year for two straight years. The Irish may not have played a perfect game, but they made plays when necessary, Corrigan said.

“It wasn’t a pretty day,” Corrigan said. “It wasn’t going to be a pretty offensive day for anybody. It was really about making plays more than playing well, just because of the conditions. I thought that was what we did extremely well.”

Those sorts of plays aided the offensive outburst by Marlatt and Kavanagh. Senior attackman Sean Rogers and senior midfielder Steve Murphy both added two goals apiece.

“Those guys were terrific in scoring the ball,” Corrigan said. “But I thought they were also the beneficiaries of us playing good, hard lacrosse.”

Kemp faced 15 shots on goal and stopped 10 of them. In its first two contests of the year, Duke had averaged 16.5 goals per game.

Corrigan chalks up Notre Dame’s early-season success to its offseason and preseason preparation. Under his tutelage, the Irish are 20-5 in season openers.

“I think our guys work extremely hard in the preseason,” Corrigan said. “We have optimal conditions to do that in the Loftus Center, so I think we go into that game well prepared.”

Notre Dame opened up a 6-0 lead and did not allow a goal until the closing minute of the first half. But the Irish answered right away with goals by Marlatt and Kavanagh before the halftime horn.

On paper, Duke played better than the score indicated. The Blue Devils had the advantage in ground balls and faceoffs and the two teams were even in the turnover department. But Notre Dame managed eight more shots than the Blue Devils.

Duke shuffled three different goaltenders into the game, but none of them were able to slow Marlatt and the Notre Dame offense down.

Recently, Notre Dame and Duke have developed a non-conference rivalry. In 2010, Duke beat Notre Dame in overtime to win the national championship. In 2011, the Blue Devils bounced Notre Dame from the NCAA tournament in the quarterfinals. But the Irish have won the last two meetings.

“They’re a good team, and a team that we’ve kind of become rivals with, and I think continue to be rivals with,” Corrigan said.

With eight days between games, Notre Dame has plenty to work on before they head to Penn State to face the No. 15 Nittany Lions on Feb. 24.

“There’s a lot of things I think we can clean up and be a lot better at,” Corrigan said. “But for a first time and with the conditions we were in, I thought it was a really good effort. I thought our guys competed well. Now the trick is to see if we can play better.”

Contact Matthew Robison at mrobison@nd.edu