Irish roll in season-opener against Jacksonville
Greg Hadley | Monday, February 17, 2014
No. 5 Notre Dame opened up its regular season Sunday with a dominant 19-7 win over Jacksonville at EverBank Field in Jacksonville, Fla.
The Irish (1-0) stormed out to a 3-0 advantage six minutes into the game and would never relinquish the lead. The Dolphins (0-2) managed just three goals on seven shots in the first half, as Notre Dame rolled to a 12-3 halftime lead.
“It’s easy to get sloppy in a game like this, when you go up big early, but we didn’t do that,” Irish coach Kevin Corrigan said. “The boys played smart and with good discipline.”
Early in the game, the Irish dominated possession and put heavy pressure on Dolphins senior goalie Pete DeLuca. Notre Dame unloaded 24 first-quarter shots and 56 in total. Irish sophomore attackman Matt Kavanagh and junior attackman Conor Doyle led the way with three goals apiece, but Corrigan said the entire offense played exceptionally well.
“[Matt and Conor] did what our whole offense did,” Corrigan said. “They moved really well without the ball. It wasn’t just that they got the ball and beat their guy to the goal, although they did that too. It was their play off the ball that created opportunities for themselves and for the midfielders.”
Thirteen different players scored for the Irish, but arguably the strongest performance of the night came from senior midfielder and face-off specialist Liam O’Connor, who won 19 of 25 face-offs and added a goal.
“If I had to pick just one thing that we did really well today and that was very heartening, it would have to be Liam O’Connor’s play,” Corrigan said. “He’s battled his way back from knee surgery. He didn’t play at all in the fall and was limited in the preseason, but he had a great game today and it was the product of a lot of hard work that he put in.”
Jacksonville was plagued with possession issues all game, turning the ball over 22 times and losing 77 percent of face-offs. The Dolphins struggled to get shots off, recording just 18 and only forcing five saves from the Irish goalies.
Notre Dame’s defense, which ended last season ranked 10th in the nation in goals allowed, surrendered four goals in the first three quarters before taking out the starters.
“I think we played very well,” Corrigan said. “At the end of the day, three of the seven goals we gave up were man-down and we played a lot of people. I think we played most of our roster tonight, at least on the defensive end of the field.”
In goal, junior Conor Kelly earned the start over freshman Shane Doss after the two spent the preseason competing for the starting job. Kelly yielded four goals but added four saves, while Doss came on in the fourth quarter. He allowed three goals and had one save.
Corrigan said Kelly would remain the starter in the near future but said Doss could continue to see playing time.
“Those two guys have been battling throughout the fall and spring,” Corrigan said. “Conor is our starter right now but we have great confidence in Shane as well. It’s a good position for us to be in.”
The Irish host No. 7 Penn State on Saturday.