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Men’s Lacrosse: Finals rematch offers a chance at revenge

Joseph Monardo | Friday, February 18, 2011

Nearly nine months after falling to Duke in the NCAA championship game in overtime, Notre Dame has a chance to begin its season with redemption.

When the Irish and the Blue Devils meet up in Jacksonville, Fla., Sunday, the rematch of last year’s final will include two top-10 teams.

Coming off a season in which they went 7-6 before earning three straight upset victories in the NCAA tournament to reach the finals, the Irish enter the 2011 season ranked No. 7 nationally. Duke is ranked as high as No. 4 in the polls.

“It’s a big game for us,” senior midfielder Zach Brenneman said. “Because it’s our first one against a top team. You always want to start off your season well and a team like Duke, you always have to prepare well, and I think our coaches do a great job at that.”

The Irish coaching staff is headed by Kevin Corrigan as he begins his 23rd year on the job. For Corrigan, the opening game against Duke offers a valuable opportunity.

“It is like all opening games,” Corrigan said. “It’s not life or death, but last year this game is what got us into the tournament. Anytime we have a chance to go against a nationally recognized team we have to take advantage.”

In last year’s opener, the Irish defeated No. 2 Duke, 11-7. Corrigan said he sees many parallels between this year’s Irish team and last year’s.

“There are probably a lot more similarities than differences,” he said. “We have a very strong defensive group. Offensively, we are an unproven commodity.”

Last year the Irish ranked second nationally in team scoring defense, surrendering an average of only 7.53 goals per game. Much of that success relied on the prowess of senior goalie and two-time All-American Scott Rodgers. Corrigan acknowledges his team’s inexperience at the goalie position, but has expressed confidence in sophomore John Kemp, who will man the net this year for the Irish. The Irish will look to protect the talented Kemp as much as possible against the Blue Devils.

“I think we are really trying to focus on limiting their transitions,” Brenneman said. “They are a pretty good offensive team, and our team goal is to have a team score less than six and if our defense can do that and our offense can put up points on the board, I think we’ll have a good day.”

Should the Irish come out of the weekend with a win, their season, which has such high hopes, will be off to a great start.

“I have never gone into a game where the goal hasn’t been to win,” Corrigan said. “So why would you go into a season where the goal isn’t to win every game?”

The game can be seen on ESPN Sunday at 3 p.m.