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Men’s Lacrosse: Irish have become model of consistency

Sam Gans | Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The No. 2-seeded Irish are still alive in the NCAA tournament, but no matter what happens in Sunday’s quarterfinals, Notre Dame has established a consistency nearly unmatched in NCAA lacrosse.

The Irish (11-4, 4-2 Big East) have advanced to four straight NCAA tournament quarterfinals, the second-longest active streak in the country behind only Sunday’s opponent, Duke.

“I think [the streak] says great things about the consistency of our program,” Irish coach Kevin Corrigan said. “I think that’s something our guys should be very proud of because a lot goes into that every year and they certainly know what the level of competition is, so it’s a great accomplishment for them.”

The quarterfinal appearance comes off a 9-7 victory against Detroit in the tournament’s first round last Saturday at Arlotta Stadium. Corrigan said he was grateful for students’ showing of support in the win over the Titans (5-10, 3-3 MAAC), a game in which Notre Dame rallied from a four-goal fourth quarter deficit.

The Irish had one of the toughest schedules in the country this season, with 10 games against opponents that were ranked when the game was played. Corrigan said the tough schedule benefitted the Irish going into the tournament both in seeding and in preparation.

“We didn’t ever get a chance to kind of relax and just groove into the season with great confidence,” he said. “But at the end of the day, I think it’s better to have to fight your way through the season, because at the end you realize where you are, and when you do start playing with confidence, you’ve earned it … and you know where your weaknesses are.”  

Notre Dame was able to slide through the tough slate thanks in large part to freshman attackman Matt Kavanagh. Kavanagh led the Irish in points and benefitted from playing alongside fifth-year Sean Rogers and sophomore Conor Doyle, both of whom returned as starting attackmen this season.

“It was great for [Kavanagh] to come in, as confident as he is, [and] not have the weight of having to do everything, because he had two experienced guys with him – who are both very confident as well – and the value of their experience, which they could share with him and have throughout the year,” Corrigan said.

Kavanagh and Rogers both earned all-Big East honors, as did seniors goalie John Kemp and defender Matt Miller and juniors midfielder Jim Marlatt and defender Stephen O’Hara.

Though the Irish advanced to the quarterfinals, they did not repeat as Big East champions in their final season in the conference. Despite the loss, Corrigan said there wasn’t much time to dwell on the negatives and said Notre Dame’s body of work set it up for a strong postseason run.

Notre Dame faces the Blue Devils (13-5, 2-1 ACC) this weekend with a chance to make its third Final Four in four seasons. Notre Dame has won four consecutive regular-season games against Duke, including a 13-5 win Feb. 16, but lost in 2010 and 2011 to the Blue Devils in the NCAA tournament.

Corrigan said Duke has mostly kept the same scheme from three months ago, but its young personnel has matured, and the Blue Devils have shuffled some players around, starting a new attackman and goalie. He also said he’s not concerned about Notre Dame’s last two postseason matchups against Duke.

“[The Blue Devils are] a very, very good team and probably playing as well as anybody in the country right now,” Corrigan said. “There’s always that challenge in playing them, but I don’t think there’s a mental hurdle to beating them, because we’ve beaten them three times in the last three years, so I don’t think our guys look at it that way.”

The Irish and Blue Devils are set for a 2:30 p.m. start Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.

Contact Sam Gans at sgans@nd.edu