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Men’s Lacrosse: Starting spots up for grabs in opening exhibition

Michael Bryan | Friday, January 25, 2008

While Sunday’s opening game against Robert Morris is an exhibition, the Irish have plenty to play for with several starting positions still up for grabs.

Notre Dame, ranked fifth in Lacrosse Magazine’s preseason poll, will begin the season with a home scrimmage against the Colonials at 10 a.m. The Irish will look to build on a strong 2007 campaign that featured an NCAA Tournament appearance and the team’s 10th Great Western Lacrosse League title.

Notre Dame coach Kevin Corrigan said he was looking forward to seeing his players go up against new competition.

“I just want to see our guys going up and down, playing in the roles we’re looking to fill,” Corrigan said. “When you compete against yourselves every day there are things you don’t get to see.”

Robert Morris enters South Bend in just its fourth season as a varsity program. The Colonials struggled last season, going 3-9 and ending the season on a seven-game losing streak.

Key returnees for Robert Morris include senior captains Andrew Watt and John Kennedy, whose mammoth presence in goal will challenge the Irish offense. The 6-foot-2, 330-pound Kennedy recorded an 11.78 goals-against average last season in six games, while Watt led the Colonial offense with 22 goals and 30 points.

While the Irish return seven of 10 starters from last season’s 11-4 team, Corrigan said there are still battles for starting positions.

“We still have competition at some positions,” Corrigan said. “A lot of guys will be trying to win jobs or solidify their spots.”

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.

Corrigan said while the team has high expectations, players are focused on meeting daily goals in practice.

“We want to take everything we’re doing up a level, and do it on a daily basis,” Corrigan said.

Notre Dame will have one final tune-up Feb. 2 with an exhibition against Bucknell before beginning the regular season Feb. 16 against Loyola.