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Men’s Lacrosse: Irish open Big East play with win over Rutgers

Megan Golden | Monday, March 28, 2011

The No. 3 Irish opened Big East play Sunday with an 8-3 victory over Rutgers, as Notre Dame shut down the Scarlet Knights in arguably the team’s best overall performance of the season.

It only took 30 seconds for the Irish (6-0) to light up the scoreboard, as senior midfielder David Earl gave Notre Dame the early lead. The Scarlet Knights (5-3) were a man-up when they tied the game at one midway through the first quarter. A Rutgers penalty then opened the door for Notre Dame to regain the lead with a second Earl goal less than 20 seconds later.

Entering the second quarter with a 4-2 Irish lead, both Notre Dame and Rutgers were held scoreless for the next 15 minutes. Irish coach Kevin Corrigan said the Scarlet Knights had possession of the ball for the majority of the quarter, but the Irish defense prevented Rutgers from scoring.

“They were content to play a lot of offense without putting pressure on us,” Corrigan said. “What that means is that it’s really hard to get the ball unless were willing to go out and get the ball from them, and that’s not how we play. When we did [have the ball], we had some good possessions that we didn’t take advantage of, but we didn’t have a lot of them.”

Junior attack Nicholas Beattie and senior attack Colin Igoe helped the Irish pull away during the third quarter, giving the squad a 6-3 lead heading into the final quarter. Igoe and sophomore attack Ryan Foley tacked on two additional goals in the fourth quarter, sealing the 8-3 Irish victory.

“What makes us tough to beat is we have a lot of guys who can make plays,” Earl said. “We definitely have standout players, but our team doesn’t have guys who put up a lot of numbers. I think it’s a strength for us that a lot of guys contribute and make plays because it makes it hard for other teams to prepare for us.”

After playing a key role in an 8-7 win over Ohio State on Mar. 23, junior attack Sean Rogers once again led the Irish offensively, recording four total points on one goal and three assists. Corrigan said Rogers has discovered his role as one of the many leaders on the Irish squad.

“Sean has really kind of become our quarterback, and I credit that to him,” Corrigan said. “He’s really done a nice job of making a variety of nice plays now. He’s a good feeder, he cuts around the corners well, he has a good sense of the game and he does a nice job of recognizing when we want to be aggressive and when we want to lay off of the ball. He has really matured and improved during his years here.”

Rogers emphasized the role of the team as a whole in scoring and said his teammates have worked together to make plays this season.

“The biggest difference is we’re playing as a unit this year, and it just so happens that I’ve been put in a position to make plays,” Rogers said. “Guys look to me at times, and it just so happens that I’ve been able to makes some plays early on in the season.”

Entering Sunday’s game, Irish opponents had scored an average of 6.4 goals per game, but Notre Dame’s defense stepped up and held the Scarlet Knights to just three. The Irish cleared the ball successfully in all 16 attempts.

“Our defense is really strong,” Earl said. “We didn’t make too many mistakes. Overall, we played four quarters [of] just consistent, good decision-making defense. It energizes us when we don’t give up those goals.”

The Irish picked up more ground balls than the Scarlet Knights [18-17], and they also won the turnover battle [12-15]. Corrigan said the performance by the Irish was reflective of their undefeated record for the first time this season.

“I thought it was probably our most complete game of the season,” Corrigan said. “We played well in pretty much every aspect. We cleared the ball well. We played good offense and defense. We were opportunistic but pretty efficient offensively. We still need to finish the ball in some opportunities we get, but we’re getting better.”

The Irish return to action Saturday at 1 p.m. when they host Villanova at Arlotta Stadium.