Irish face off with Army in finale
A.J. Godeaux | Tuesday, April 29, 2014
After a thrilling 15-14 win over No. 4 Syracuse on Sunday to capture the ACC championship, the No. 5 Irish return to action Saturday with a home matchup against No. 19 Army.
With the Irish (8-5, 2-3 ACC) jumping from ninth to fifth in the latest poll after their tournament championship, the game against Army provides another chance for the team to bolster its NCAA resumé.“This game is very important to us and a tremendous opportunity to improve our standing in terms of NCAA seeding,” Irish coach Kevin Corrigan said. “Especially with finals next week, no one wants to have to rearrange exams to go travel to play a first-round NCAA game on the road. Having a home game against a quality team is an opportunity, and a win would go a long way to locking up a game at home.”
Army (9-4, 6-1 Patriot) comes into the matchup after a 12-11 loss to No. 17 Lehigh in the Patriot League tournament semifinals Friday. The loss snapped a five-game win streak for the Black Knights.
“They’re a top-20 team with a lot of talent, especially on defense, and they’re tough,” Corrigan said. “All four of their losses have come by one goal. I don’t know if you’ll find another team in the country like that, so you know they’ll be a resilient, tough team.”
The Black Knights lead the nation in scoring defense, giving up a paltry 6.38 goals per game.
The first order of business for the Irish defense will be shutting down junior attackman John Glesener. Glesener leads the Black Knights with 37 goals, and his 2.85 goals per game average is good for ninth in the nation. His 50 points are 19 more than the next-highest total on the Black Knights roster.
In addition to the ACC-clinching victory over Syracuse on Sunday, the Irish also avenged a 12-8 loss to No. 7 Maryland on April 19, rebounding six days later to knock off the Terrapins in the ACC semifinals, 6-5. Sophomore attackman Matt Kavanagh led the Irish offense in both games, converting the game-winner against Maryland and following that performance up with four goals against the Orange, earning him tournament MVP honors.
Corrigan said he has been impressed with Kavanagh all season but especially lately, adding the Irish will need him to continue to spark the offense against the Black Knights and in the NCAA tournament.
“Matt’s most of all a competitor,” Corrigan said. “What’s really impressed me is how tough he is. This late in the season, one thing you absolutely need is toughness, and while Matt is really skilled and a great player, his toughness is what really sets him apart and has been key to his success, especially here down the stretch.”Though the Irish just wrapped up a conference title and are “playing our best lacrosse of the season,” that does not mean they are playing without fault, Corrigan said.
“I think we can still clear the ball better on the defensive end,” Corrigan said. “I said that before the Maryland game, and I think we did better compared to the first time playing them, but we didn’t do quite as well [against Syracuse]. I’d like to see us play better in our set offense, too. We scored goals a lot of different ways this weekend, but I’d like to see us get more out of our set offense.”
The Irish and the Black Knights face off at noon Saturday at Arlotta Stadium.