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Men’s Lacrosse: Ninth-ranked Notre Dame opens season against No. 2 Duke

Meaghan Veselik | Friday, February 19, 2010

The Irish open a new season ranked ninth in the preseason USILA coaches’ poll, and have been picked to finish second in the newly formed seven-team Big East. But Notre Dame’s only concern right now is opening the season against No. 2 Duke Saturday.

“We don’t look too far ahead,” Irish coach Kevin Corrigan said. “We aren’t going to worry about goals and expectations for the season. That only means we had a good team at the end of last season. We’re getting into this game and are concerning ourselves with a very experienced and strong Duke team.”

And the Irish are right not to be thinking ahead of Duke. The Blue Devils finished the 2009 season with a loss to Syracuse in the national semifinals, and are ready to prove themselves stronger this season. With a roster of 17 seniors and fifth-year seniors in addition to their younger players and returning All-Americans, including the nation’s top attacker Max Quinzani, the Blue Devils return a strong attack.

However, Notre Dame has proved itself to be a force in the past as well, finishing the 2009 season with a 15-1 campaign and the No.7 seed entering the NCAA Championship. The Irish won both the Great Western Lacrosse League regular-season and tournament titles in the conference’s final season. With the creation of the Big East’s men’s lacrosse league, they might have a slightly greater challenge with rivals such as Syracuse, Georgetown, Providence, St. John’s, Rutgers and Villanova.

“[Duke] is going to be a challenge, but more than that we need to play with concern for our own team in our first game of the season,” Corrigan said. “We need to play with the lacrosse IQ and the athletic intensity that can distinguish our team.”

Returning for Notre Dame are six starters and 16 letter-winners, including first-time senior captains Mike Creighton, Neal Hicks and Kelley McKenna, as well as returning captain and fifth-year senior Scott Rodgers.

“We’re excited about our captains and the leadership throughout the team, which is one of our real strengths,” Corrigan said.

Notre Dame’s strength lies in moving through the season as a team. The Irish came out of 2009 first in the nation with a school record 6.19 goals-against average, and their offense was 10th in the nation averaging 11.00 goals per game. Notre Dame will look to bring these assets and also illustrate some of its other strong points in Saturday’s game.

“We want to be fundamentally sound, athletic, be aggressive and play with a high IQ of the game,” Corrigan said of his team. “Those are what we pride ourselves on, what we’ve built our program off of, and what we’re going to look for coming out of this game.”

Notre Dame and Duke will open the season Saturday at 1 p.m.