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Men’s lacrosse: Squad looks to build on last season’s success

Michael Bryan | Thursday, January 24, 2008

Returning most of the starters on a powerful offense and the toughest defense in program history, Notre Dame will try to use its mix of talent and experience to make another championship run this season.

The Irish return seven starters from last year’s 11-4 campaign. After losing three of its first five games to strong non-conference opponents, Notre Dame reeled off eight straight wins to close the regular season.

The streak included a perfect 5-0 record in Great Western Lacrosse League competition, earning the Irish their 10th GWLL title. The Irish advanced to the NCAA Tournament with a No. 8 ranking, but fell in overtime to eventual national champion Johns Hopkins in the first round.

Notre Dame enters the season with high expectations, ranked fifth in the Lacrosse Magazine preseason poll.

“Our guys have very high aspirations,” Irish coach Kevin Corrigan said. “We return a lot of experience on a strong offense and defense.”

Returning in net for the Irish is senior captain Joey Kemp, a preseason All-American selection and the 2007 GWLL player of the year. A four-year starter for Notre Dame, Kemp has a 26-11 record and 7.43 goals-against average for his career.

Senior Sean Dougherty, another preseason All-American, anchors an Irish defense that gave up a program-best 6.66 goals per game last season.

Two-sport athlete Will Yeatman, the 2007 LaxPower rookie of the year, will return as the leader of a strong Irish attack. Yeatman, who also plays tight end on the football team, led Notre Dame in points as a freshman with 21 goals and 25 assists.

Joining Yeatman on the attack will be junior Ryan Hoff, who netted a team-high 40 goals for the Irish last year. Even more impressive than Hoff’s scoring might have been his accuracy – he posted a .500 shooting percentage on the season.

While the Irish graduated only three starters from last year’s squad, midfielders Lucius Polk and Brian Hubschmann will be key losses. Hubschmann, an honorable mention selection to the All-America team, was among the top three for the Fighting Irish in points, goals and assists.

Polk was also a solid offensive contributor for the Irish, tallying 18 goals and seven assists.

“We’ve definitely lost the most in our midfield,” Corrigan said. “We have to solidify and prove ourselves in the midfield this season.”

Pacing the midfielders will be senior Michael Podgajny, who has 70 points in his career at Notre Dame. Playing alongside him will be senior Taylor Clagett, a face-off specialist, who has a .595 winning percentage in his career.

The Irish face a tough schedule that includes three NCAA Tournament teams from last season – Loyola, Albany and North Carolina. In addition, the Irish will participate in the inaugural GWLL Tournament at the conclusion of the regular season.

“It should be fun, and a great environment to play in,” Corrigan said. “It’s a great way to end the regular season and experience tournament pressure without the one and done of the NCAA Tournament.”

Notre Dame begins its season Sunday with an exhibition at home against Robert Morris. The Irish will open the regular season Feb. 16 at Loyola.