Irish battle Terrapins
Kit Loughran | Tuesday, April 15, 2014
With the ACC Tournament field set, ACC rivals Notre Dame and Maryland both have a lot on the line in Saturday’s contest.
The No. 8 Irish (6-4, 2-2 ACC) host the No. 5 Terrapins (9-2, 3-1) in their last ACC regular-season game Saturday at Arlotta Stadium. The two teams may have only met twice in the past nine seasons, but regardless of Saturday’s outcome, the two teams will meet again next Friday in the semifinals of the ACC championship. This game’s decision has significant implications for the Irish heading into the post season.
“For us, this game is very important because we are in a situation of needing to win in order to secure our place in the NCAA tournament,” Irish coach Kevin Corrigan said. “We still have that to do so this is a huge game because it can put us in a great situation for NCAA or show us that we are still needing more.”
Even though Notre Dame and Maryland will face each other in the semifinals no matter Saturday’s outcome, the seeding for the ACC tournament depends on who leaves the field victorious. If the Irish win, then Duke will clinch the No. 1 seed, followed by Notre Dame at No. 2, Maryland at No. 3 and then Syracuse. However, if the Terrapins win, then Maryland will take the No. 1 seed, followed by Duke at No. 2 and Syracuse and Notre Dame at No. 3 and No. 4, respectively.
“This is a big game for us in terms of [the ACC], but it is also a chance for us to show that we have continued to develop and that we are peaking at the right time of the season,” sophomore defender Matthew Landis said.
Maryland’s only loss in the ACC so far was an 8-11 loss to No. 6 North Carolina (9-3, 2-3) on March 22. The Irish rallied to beat the Tar Heels 11-10 on March 1. Though the Irish have this win on the Terrapins, Maryland garnered victories over No. 2 Duke (10-2, 3-1) and No. 4 Syracuse (8-3, 2-3), both of whom the Irish fell to 15-7 and 11-10, respectively.
“Maryland is a disciplined and physical team which will require us to play at a high level physically and intellectually,” Landis said. “If we can play the game we want and force them to our style of play instead of them imposing their will on us, then we will be in a position to succeed.”
The Irish have redeemed their 15-7 loss to Duke on April 5 in their past two games against Marquette and Robert Morris. Just three days after falling to Duke, Notre Dame led a strong second half to defeat the Golden Eagles 12-7. Notre Dame’s streak continued last Saturday with a 15-5 victory over Robert Morris, in which the Irish defense, despite its ups-and-downs on the season, allowed a season-low number of goals.
“These past two games have given the defense a chance to get back to the level of communication and coordination that is essential to our style of play,” Landis said. “If we can maintain this against Maryland, then we will be fine.”
The Irish defense will look to shut down the Maryland attack, which is currently averaging 12.18 goals per game under the leadership of senior midfielder Mike Chanenchuk and freshman attackman Matt Rambo.
For the Irish offense, sophomore attackman Matt Kavanagh has led the offense for the majority of the season, tallying 21 goals and 40 points. However, the Irish have expanded their offensive depth by getting more players involved in the attack effort. Against Robert Morris, the Irish used 11 different goal scorers.
“The depth will definitely help us [against Maryland] because we will have fresher legs towards the end of the game,” Landis said. “It’s always a good thing to have a lot of guys get involved and contribute.”
The Irish fight for a higher ACC tournament seeding in their final ACC regular-season game against Maryland on Saturday at Arlotta Stadium at 12 p.m.