Irish, Terps ready for rematch
Kit Loughran | Friday, April 25, 2014
The No. 4-seeded Irish take on No. 1-seeded Maryland in the semifinals of the ACC tournament Friday at 7:30 p.m. at PPL Park in Chester, Pa.
No. 9 Notre Dame (6-5, 2-3 ACC) fell, 12-8, to No. 5 Maryland (10-2, 4-1) on Saturday in both teams’ regular-season ACC finale. The Terrapins held the lead the entire contest until the Irish tied it up 8-8 in the fourth quarter, but it was Maryland that capitalized on a late four-goal surge to get past the Irish.Six days later, the Irish and Terrapins meet again with the ACC title close on the horizon. Unlike Saturday’s game, the Irish head into this semifinals contest with a better grasp of how they match up against Maryland.
“The biggest advantage in playing a team again less than a week later is that we don’t have to start over in our preparation for a new team,” Irish coach Kevin Corrigan said. “We are familiar with Maryland’s personnel and what they do, and we can look at what they did that was unexpected and what we weren’t ready for without starting over from the beginning.”
With a second shot at Maryland, the Irish have an opportunity to take what they learned about themselves and better direct their focus against the top-seeded Terrapins, senior defense Stephen O’Hara said.
“This time around we want to try to really dictate the tempo of the game from the start,” O’Hara said.
Setting the pace of play from the beginning will be critical for the Irish offense, which could not take control of Saturday’s scoreboard. The Irish trailed, 6-3, at halftime, lost 20 of 24 faceoff attempts and were outshot, 40-21. Corrigan said his team will aim to gain more control of the ball in order to prevent the Terrapins from dominating the majority of possession again.
“There are a number of things we could do differently to gain more control, such as having different players face off and different players on the wings,” Corrigan said. “However, it wasn’t just our faceoff. Our ground ball play wasn’t good enough, so we made sure we addressed that, and I’m sure we will do a better job this time around.”
Defensively, the Irish maintained a solid front throughout the contest, forcing 16 turnovers and making 14 saves. But O’Hara, who leads the Irish defense with 19 groundballs and 12 forced turnovers, said the Irish defense has adjusted and hopefully should be even more able to effectively shut down the Terrapin offense.
“We want to guard people better from the beginning of the possession,” O’Hara said. “We’ve corrected some of the mistakes we made from a sliding standpoint and our approaches on their players. We are also looking to make sure we play all the way through the possession and clear efficiently.”
Although the Terrapins boast a 12.17 goals per game average and a defense that maintains a 0.92 clear percentage, the two ends of Maryland’s field do not pose the greatest threat to the Irish squad, O’Hara said.
“The biggest challenge for us, as it’s been all year, is going to be for us to play a full 60-minute game,” O’Hara said. “We know they’re a really good team, and it’s going to take our full focus and effort to beat these guys, but if we can get off to a good start and continue to play our game, we should be in good shape.”
The Irish take on top-seeded Maryland in the ACC tournament semifinal Friday at 7:30 p.m. at PPL Park in Chester, Pa. The contest will be broadcasted live on ESPNU and WatchESPN.