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Men’s Lacrosse

Kavanagh leads Irish in exhibition matchup

| Monday, January 26, 2015

After a slow start, No. 2 Notre Dame pulled away in the second quarter of its exhibition match with Bellarmine at Loftus Sports Center this Sunday, showing some of the competitive fire Irish coach Kevin Corrigan said he wanted to see heading into the matchup.

“In the second quarter and third quarters, we played really well, we controlled the game, we rode really well all day,” Corrigan said. “That was encouraging because that’s something that’s important to us. We had a lot of different people contribute, which should be a strength for us.”

Notre Dame junior attacker Matt Kavanagh maneuvers around Bellarmine’s defense in an exhibition match at Loftus Sports Center on Sunday.  Kavanagh tallied 42 goals last season.Michael Yu | The Observer

Notre Dame junior attack Matt Kavanagh maneuvers around Bellarmine’s defense in an exhibition match at Loftus Sports Center on Sunday. Kavanagh tallied 42 goals last season.

While no official statistics were kept for the preseason affair, the Irish outscored the Knights 19-4 through a full 60 minutes of play. The two teams also played an additional 15-minute quarter.

Early on, however, Notre Dame’s starting lineup had trouble cracking the Bellarmine defense, which warded off each Irish attack by packing the inside of the field near the crease.

“I thought we started slowly,” Corrigan said. “We didn’t have or give ourselves a lot of opportunities in the first quarter to make plays. It took a while to get into the rhythm of the game.”

The Irish offense — led by junior attack Matt Kavanagh, preseason All-American and program record-holder for most points in a season — could not find the net for the first 10 minutes of the contest. Finally, with 4:56 left in the period, senior midfielder Nick Ossello scored to cap off a long possession and break the ice.

The first quarter ended with the squads tied, 2-2, thanks to a last-minute blast from Kavanagh from the outside. However, with several players sidelined due to injury, the early troubles were not unexpected, Corrigan said.

“We’re not crying. We had enough good players out there to play good lacrosse,” Corrigan said. “But I think the level of competitiveness in practice hasn’t been what it could be … so far because of the injuries.

“Hopefully we’ll start getting people back in the next few weeks and that will help us fill out some of our roles with guys, but also just compete at a higher level every day.”

Irish freshman attack Pierre Byrne, left, possesses the ball during Notre Dame's exhibition against Bellarmine on Sunday at Loftus Sports Center.Michael Yu | The Observer

Irish freshman attack Pierre Byrne, left, moves the ball during Notre Dame’s exhibition against Bellarmine on Sunday at Loftus Sports Center.

Kavanagh jump-started the Irish on the first possession of the second quarter, scoring again from outside to give Notre Dame a lead it would never relinquish. In the second period alone, the Irish outscored the Knights 7-0, led by multiple goals from Kavanagh, Ossello and sophomore midfielder Sergio Perkovic.

“[The] game was good for the guys who were there,” Corrigan said. “We needed that. That’s a great day of work for us, in terms of having the chance to compete against someone else and having to figure out what we needed to do. … That’s one of the better days we’ve had.”

Senior goalie Conor Kelly collected three saves and allowed two goals for the Irish in 30 minutes of play. He earned the start after anchoring the Irish defense during its run to the NCAA championship game last season, but the position is far from settled, Corrigan said.

Sophomore Shane Doss played the second two quarters of the game, and freshman Owen Molloy saw action in the last period.

“I don’t think I’m really in a situation to reevaluate anyone based on where we are now, so much as assess the strengths of the guys we have,” Corrigan said. “We’re still figuring out the goalie position. We have tremendous depth there. All three guys are giving us a great effort right now. They’re all great talented guys with different strengths in goal.”

Throughout the game, the Irish rotated through three faceoff specialists — Ossello, sophomore P.J. Finley and freshman John Travisano, Jr. — and Corrigan said he was not completely satisfied with any of them.

“We’ve got to continue to work on our faceoff game to make sure that all [three] of our guys — not just our faceoff guys but our wing guys — that they’re all working together and doing a good job,” Corrigan said. “So if we win faceoffs, that’s great. If we can make some plays out of the faceoff and score in transition, that’s great, and if we can learn how to survive on the days we’re struggling there, that’s great too.”

The Irish still have three weeks before they take the field at Arlotta Stadium against Georgetown on Feb. 14 to kick off their regular season, but they have one more exhibition match this Saturday at noon against Air Force at Loftus Sports Center.

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About Greg Hadley

Greg Hadley is a senior from Rockville, Maryland, majoring in political science with a minor in Journalism, Ethics and Democracy. He served as The Observer's Editor-in-Chief for the 2015-2016 term and currently covers Notre Dame baseball and women's basketball.

Contact Greg