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Men’s Lacrosse:Big East poses new threats

Douglas Farmer | Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Notre Dame won the last three GWLL championships, but this year has no chance to defend that title. Rather, the Irish will go after the first-ever Big East men’s lacrosse title in the first year the conference has sponsored the sport.
In its 16 years in the GWLL, Notre Dame became a nationally-recognized program, finishing in first place 12 of those 16 years. Irish coach Kevin Corrigan said despite the promise the Big East holds for the Irish, the GWLL helped make the No. 3 Irish (2-0) what they are today.
“[The GWLL] was a great conference for us. It really helped us in a period of growth for our program,” Corrigan said. “We leave with nothing but fond memories of the GWLL.”
But the time has come for change, Corrigan said.
“At the same time, it’s a great time for us to join a league like the Big East,” he said. “I think the league itself is a tremendous thing for the sport of lacrosse.”
Joining the Irish in the newly-formed Big East men’s lacrosse league will be defending national champion and No. 1 Syracuse, No. 14 Georgetown, Villanova, Rutgers, St. John’s and Providence. Of the seven teams, Syracuse was unanimously picked to win the conference in the preseason by the seven coaches, and Notre Dame was picked to finish second.
Now in a conference with two other top-15 teams, the Irish will face a more difficult schedule throughout the regular season, a fact that should benefit Notre Dame come season’s end. Last season Notre Dame’s weak schedule was criticized as the Irish entered the NCAA Tournament undefeated, only to lose in the first round to Maryland 7-3.
“The tougher schedule does prepare you better,” Corrigan said. “Overall you learn more about yourself the harder schedule you play, and the more you know about yourself, the better prepared you are at the end of the year.”
That strength of schedule should compensate for the conference’s lack of an automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament for the next two years, Corrigan said.
“Whoever wins the league is going to the NCAA Tournament, there is no doubt about that,” he said. “Our job is to win enough games to get us into the NCAA Tournament, and if we win the Big East regular season, we’ll be okay.”
In order to win the Big East regular season, the Irish need to continue playing the way they have been playing — so far registering an 11-7 win over No. 2 Duke and a 12-8 win over Penn State Sunday — with one major improvement.
“The biggest thing we haven’t done consistently well in the first couple games is we haven’t cleared the ball well, and that can really hurt you,” Corrigan said. “When you get defensive stops, you need to turn those into offensive possessions and even offensive opportunities.”
The Irish have five more matches to fine-tune their game before opening their first Big East conference season on March 27 when they host Rutgers.