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Men’s Lacross: Record-setting defense back for season opener

Michael Bryan | Friday, February 15, 2008

Two teams with postseason expectations will face their first tests Saturday as Notre Dame travels to Maryland to play ranked Loyola-Maryland to open the season.

The Irish, ranked No. 10 in the Inside Lacrosse preseason poll, will travel to Baltimore to face the No. 17 Greyhounds

The same two teams met in last year’s season opener, a close match in South Bend. The Irish trailed late but rallied for a 9-7 win thanks in large part to goalkeeper Joey Kemp, who held Loyola scoreless over the last 22 minutes.

Despite the win in last season’s opener, the Irish are 3-13 all-time against Loyola. The Greyhounds are 13-1 in home openers in the program’s history.

Even though Loyola lost several starters from last year’s NCAA Tournament team, Irish coach Kevin Corrigan said Loyola’s depth and style will challenge Notre Dame.

“They’re a very good defensive team, and they like to control the tempo of the game,” Corrigan said. “They’re very disciplined on offense and have a lot of sustained possessions.”

Senior captain Shane Koppens will likely lead the Greyhounds offense after leading the team in goals (20) and points (46) last season.

The Irish begin the new season looking to build on a strong 2007 campaign that featured an NCAA Tournament appearance and the team’s 10th Great Western Lacrosse League title. The team returns eight of 11 starters, including the core of the defense that allowed a record-low 6.66 goals per game.

Returning in net for the Irish defense is 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 the Irish defense.

The high-powered Irish offense, which averaged 11.65 goals per game last season, will attempt to replace the production of sophomore Will Yeatman, who was suspended indefinitely from the team. The South Bend Tribune reported Yeatman, who led the Irish in points as a freshman and was named the LaxPower rookie of the year, was pulled over for DWI on Holy Cross Drive.

Corrigan was confident the offense would still be effective despite the loss of Yeatman. “We practiced and played without Will this fall and last fall as well during football season,” Corrigan said. “We have guys who have been playing together and used to running the offense in place.”

The contest with Loyola is just the first step in a tough opening stretch for Notre Dame. Four of the first five Irish opponents are ranked in the preseason top 25.

“We look forward to playing a high level of competition,” Corrigan said. “We have to prepare knowing we can’t relax and have to start right away.”

The Irish and Greyhounds will face off at 1 p.m. at Diane Geppi-Akens Field.