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Men’s Lacrosse: Squad takes on Providence

Matthew Robison | Friday, April 5, 2013

After an offensive explosion in a 17-5 win over Marquette on Tuesday, No. 4 Notre Dame travels to Providence on Sunday for its second Big East road game.

The Irish (7-2, 1-1 Big East) dropped their first Big East matchup to No. 10 St. John’s on Saturday after winning their conference opener against Rutgers on March 24.

Irish coach Kevin Corrigan admitted his team had started to get away from its intended focus. Instead, Notre Dame looked ahead to its opponents too much.

“I think that the focus needs to stay on us,” Corrigan said. “While we’re preparing for other teams, the focus needs to stay on our team a little bit more. That’s my fault for letting us get too far away from that.”

But against Marquette, Corrigan was happy with the way his team rebounded and got back to doing what it does best: defending, taking advantage of scoring opportunities and avoiding turnovers.

“Starting with Marquette, I think we came to a conclusion that we need to recommit ourselves to kind of being the team we want to be,” Corrigan said. “That requires doing things a certain way and having certain standards that allow us to form an identity as a team.”

The Friars (7-4, 1-2) have revitalized their program this year under the tutelage of first-year coach Chris Gabrielli.

“They’re just a different team,” Corrigan said. “They’ve had some guys kind of grow up on the field the last few years. I think with the new coaching staff, they’ve kind of embraced what they’re doing. They’re a very dangerous team.”

For the past six seasons, Gabrielli guided Duke’s defensive unit as an assistant coach. While he was there, Duke went to six Final Fours and won the 2010 national championship in an overtime victory over the Irish.

This season, the Friars’ seven wins are more than they tallied in the previous three seasons combined. In 2012, the Friars won only two games. In 2011, Providence won only three, and the Friars were winless in 2010. Their only Big East win a year ago came in the last game of the season against Villanova.

But this year, under Gabrielli, the Friars started the season with five straight wins. Providence lost its next three, but bounced back with two more victories. Most recently, the Friars dropped a 13-6 decision at No. 16 Yale on Tuesday.

But the success of Gabrielli and the Friars is an indication of the growth of the Big East conference as a whole. Notre Dame, Georgetown and Syracuse always had strong programs, but recently Rutgers, St. John’s and Villanova have burst onto the scene. And now Providence is right there with them, Corrigan said.

“When we started the conference, one of the things that we said was that it won’t take long for the programs at the bottom of the conference to be a lot better,” Corrigan said. “As part of the formation of the conference, the Big East wanted a certain level of commitment. So that was a real boost to some of the programs. So now you see St. John’s and Villanova and Providence being drastically better over a five-year period. That’s not any surprise to me whatsoever.”

Junior attack Sean Wright leads Providence’s offense with 30 goals and nine assists. His 2.9 goals per game rank sixth in the country. At 6-foot-7, bigger than any defender on Notre Dame’s roster, Wright will pose a large threat to the Irish defense.

The Irish and the Friars face off Sunday at 1 p.m. in Providence, R.I.

Contact Matthew Robison at mrobison@nd.edu