Arlotta sold out for second 1-2 matchup of the year
Brian Plamondon | Friday, April 17, 2015
If Saturday’s showdown between No. 1 Notre Dame and No. 2 North Carolina is anything like the last one-two matchup at Arlotta Stadium, fans will get their money’s worth and more.
Just three weeks removed from a thrilling home victory over top-ranked Syracuse, Notre Dame (8-1, 3-0 ACC) finds itself as the higher-ranked team this time — and with the ACC regular season title on the line.
North Carolina (12-1, 3-0) enters the game coming off three straight wins over top-10 and ACC teams, Duke, Virginia and Syracuse, scoring 42 goals in the process. In the matchup between the Tar Heels and Irish last year, the Irish rallied for an 11-10 victory, their first ever in the ACC. This year, North Carolina will mark the seventh straight ranked opponent Notre Dame will face; still, Irish head coach Kevin Corrigan said he is not worried about a letdown.
“Our guys have been really good this year [getting up for each game] — it’s been a matter of the maturity of our group overall,” Corrigan said. “Monday’s work on Monday, Saturday’s work on Saturday. That’s really important to managing a season. I think it speaks to the amount of experience we have and the leadership that [our seniors] show.”
The Irish will have to halt a Tar Heel offense that scores 15.08 goals per game, good for fourth best in the nation. They are paced by sophomore attack Luke Goldstock (39 goals, 54 points), who has an experienced trio of seniors behind him in attack Jimmy Bitter (31 goals, 65 points), attack Joey Sankey (26 goals, 57 points) and midfielder Chad Tutton (28 goals, 33 points).
“[Bitter, Sankey and Tutton] have been mainstays in their attack for four years,” Corrigan said. “But I was really impressed with how many plays [Goldstock] was making without detracting from what those other guys are doing. He’s just playing off of what they’re doing so effectively.”
The Irish have a more balanced offensive attack, led by Tewaaraton Award watch list member and junior attack Matt Kavanagh (17 goals, 39 points) and freshman attack phenom Mikey Wynne (26 goals, 28 points). Kavanagh, who totaled 74 goals over the last two seasons, hasn’t been the prolific scorer he has been in the past but has taken on more of a leadership role in the Notre Dame offense.
“He’s making sure that everybody’s involved,” Corrigan said. “I think he’s got a great IQ for the game, and he’s a great competitor. He does within the game what he thinks he needs to be doing, and I’m very confident in his judgment in that.”
The Irish may need an exceptional day defensively from juniors Matt Landis and Edwin Glazener, as well as sophomore Garrett Epple, to stifle the Tar Heel attack. Corrigan has praised his defense all year, especially Glazener, who he said entered the year as somewhat of a question mark. There are a host of other unsung heroes of the Irish squad this year, Corrigan said.
“I think there a lot of guys that you could probably say aren’t getting a lot of attention, but frankly, we’re not really concerned with that,” Corrigan said. “We’re concerned with our team being the best we can be. And I think those guys are perfectly happy as long as our team is successful, and we’re doing the things we should be doing as a group that we don’t care about the attention.”
With such a big game, Corrigan said he knows his team will come under a lot of scrutiny. Even so, the Irish squad is simply going to go out and play its game, Corrigan said.
“There’s nothing that we’re doing that poorly, frankly, that we could take some great leap forward in that area of the game,” Corrigan said. “But we can get a little bit better in a lot of areas. And I think if we get a little bit better in a lot of areas, then we’re going to be a significantly better team.”
No. 1 and No. 2 will clash at a sold-out Arlotta Stadium on Saturday at 4 p.m.