Notre Dame ready for top-10 matchup
Kit Loughran | Wednesday, March 2, 2016
The Irish kick off their spring break in sunny Southern California this weekend, but they’ll still be working hard to keep their No. 1 ranking.
Instead, the top-ranked Irish (3-0) travel to Newport Beach, California, to take on No. 8 Maryland in the Pacific Coast Shootout on Saturday. The last time the two teams went head-to-head was in 2014: Then-ranked No. 9 Irish topped the then No. 5 Terrapins (1-1), 6-5, in the ACC semifinals on April 24, 2014, before going on to beat them again, 11-6, in the NCAA semifinals one month later.
Now that the Terrapins are part of the Big Ten, Maryland and Notre Dame haven’t met since. For the Irish, this week has been all about prepping for their former ACC rival.
“We’ll watch close to an hour of film on Maryland,” sophomore attack Mikey Wynne said. “We’ll go through the [scouting] report, run through their stuff and then practice. Focus on what we’re going to do offensively against their defense and vice versa.
“Then throughout the week, we’ll continue to watch film and gain knowledge on how they work, what sets the play and things like that.”
The Irish head to California after two consecutive wins at home. They beat Bellarmine, 11-6, on Wednesday and then kept rolling with a 14-5 win over Detroit on Saturday. It was Wynne and junior midfielder Sergio Perkovic who led the Irish, as Wynne recorded six goals against Detroit, managing a hat trick before the end of the first period. Perkovic came close to that total, tallying four goals.
“We really honed in and ran our offense [against Detroit],” Wynne said. “The first two games we got away from running our offense, and whether it was someone dodging or someone taking an early shot in the possession, we just weren’t having the best opportunities.
“Against Detroit, we fought for really good shots, or great shots we should say. We always talk about that in practice. I think we did a really good job of working the ball and not settling, getting the best shot possible.”
The Irish outshot both their opponents last week by significant margins. Against Detroit though, they were 14-of-39 on shots taken, giving them a 36-percent shot percentage. Wynne said the Irish are looking to improve that percentage moving forward.
“[Stick work] was a point of emphasis as well as our six-on-six offense [during film Monday],” Wynne said. “We’ve done a great job in transition thus far, but I think our standard offense is what we need to improve on, getting our shot percentages higher.
“Like I said, we need to focus on taking the great shot, not the good shot, and [head coach Kevin Corringan] said all that comes if you have good stick work. Stick work is the major part to focus on, and after that, it’s focusing on settling down and taking the great shot.”
Maryland heads to California after losing, 8-5, to then-No. 7 Yale on Sunday. Freshman Austin Henningsen, who was recently named Big Ten Co-Freshman of the Week, won 13-of-16 faceoffs against the Bulldogs, advancing his faceoff record to 22-of-28 (.786) on the season. The Terps have also seen strong performances from junior attack Matt Rambo, who notched four points against Yale and became the 49th player to record 100 points in the school’s history.
While both the Irish and Terps have seen impressive performances from their individual assets, Wynne said it’s not about the solo effort.
“Everyone’s attitude on the team is that we know we have so many weapons, so we’re not concerned about the solo effort,” Wynne said. “It’s about just doing your job, and if that results in you having a hell of a game, then that’s awesome, but if not, it’s OK. Sometimes if I don’t score that much, we have other players that have awesome games. It’s really about everybody being ready to execute their job every single time they step on the field so that whoever has the best opportunity to exploit a defense can do so.”
Notre Dame and Maryland face off at the Pacific Coast Shootout in Newport Beach on Saturday at 8 p.m.