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Men’s Lacrosse: Team prepares for two more top-15 opponents

By Mike Monaco | Thursday, March 7, 2013

At first glance, it would seem to be another non-conference challenge, another ranked opponent for Notre Dame. But looks can be deceiving.

The No. 2 Irish (3-0) have played three top-10 teams heading into Saturday’s clash with No. 15 Hofstra at Arlotta Stadium. Notre Dame defeated then-No. 4 Duke 13-5 to begin the season before downing then-No. 8 Penn State 10-9 in overtime and then-No. 9 North Carolina on Saturday in triple overtime. But the Irish have yet to face an opponent like the Pride (3-1).

“We’ve got a lot of respect for [Hofstra],” Irish coach Kevin Corrigan said. “They’ve got a really good team. But they’re a lot different than what we’ve been playing against. Unlike the three teams we just played, they’ll try to hold the ball on us a little bit and slow the game down and really control the tempo and make it a limited-possession game.”

In three fast-paced games, the Irish and their opponents have averaged nearly 19 goals combined per contest. The Pride, meanwhile, have combined for just 16.5 goals per game against Sacred Heart, Princeton, Fairfield and Harvard thus far. Corrigan said his team will have to strike a balance between cherishing each possession and not getting too defensive.

“That’s a different kind of game,” Corrigan said. “It puts different kinds of pressure on you. You value your possessions without getting caught up in playing too slow. But you’ve got to be careful to not end up playing too much defense over the course of the day, too. It’s a little bit of a different challenge.”

A stretch of three games – two of which were away and two of which went into overtime – coupled with midterms week will present another challenge for Notre Dame heading into Saturday, Corrigan said.

“Certainly, coming out of the last few weeks, midterms [week] is always a hard time for our guys,” Corrigan said. “You have to pay real attention to how much energy your guys have and what your schedule is and everything.”

But another balancing act awaits Corrigan and the Irish on the other side of Saturday’s matchup with Hofstra. Notre Dame will remain on campus for much of spring break before traveling to Colorado to face off with yet another top-ranked opponent, No. 7 Denver. Corrigan will again juggle resting and recovering with avoiding lethargy against the Pioneers.

“[During spring break] they have too much time on their hands,” Corrigan said. “You’ve got to be careful they don’t get lethargic from just kind of sitting around waiting for practice every day. Finding that right balance is always something you’ve got to pay attention to.”

The Irish will leave South Bend on March 15, the day before the game, in order to avoid an awkward acclimation to the increased altitude at the Sports Authority Field at Mile High in Denver.

“It’s definitely something they notice,” Corrigan said of the altitude. “But you kind of get used to what it is. But, again, that’s one of the reasons we’re going out late. With the altitude, you either want to get out there eight days ahead of time or you want to go out right before the game. So we’re going to go right before the game.

“But the first couple of times you get tired, you feel like, ‘Oh my gosh I can’t breathe, I can’t catch my breath.’ It’s just something you have to adjust to, that feeling. Once you kind of get past that feeling that you’re not going to catch your breath and realize that you are, then it’s not as big of a challenge as they’d make it out to be.”

What will be challenging, Corrigan said, is taking on a high-powered squad like Denver that is averaging 14 goals per game.

“They can score goals in bunches,” Corrigan said. “You really kind of have to be careful with them that you don’t give up any big runs, that you kind of make them earn every goal. If you let your guard down for a second, they’ll run numbers up on you. Offensively, they may be as challenging a team as we play.”

The marquee matchups continue as the Irish face Hofstra on Saturday at noon in Arlotta Stadium. Notre Dame is back in action March 16 against the Pioneers at Sports Authority Field at Mile High in Denver at 6:30 p.m. ET.

Sports writer Matthew Robison contributed to this story.

Contact Mike Monaco at jmonaco@nd.edu