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Men’s Lacrosse: Carolina in my mind

Joseph Monardo | Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Its two-week reign atop the NCAA men’s lacrosse world came to an end Monday, but No. 3/4 Notre Dame has an opportunity to regain its momentum, and perhaps a spot or two in the rankings, with a win over No. 12/12 North Carolina in the regular season finale Friday.

Less than a week after suffering their first loss at the hands of now top-ranked Syracuse (13-1, 5-0 Big East), the Irish (10-1, 5-1) will face a challenge again when they travel to Chapel Hill.

Irish coach Kevin Corrigan said the loss, although disappointing, provided the Irish an opportunity to gain experience against one of the country’s best, and could begin to pay dividends for the Irish immediately.

“I think our guys are motivated to get back to work and to get back to playing our best lacrosse,” Corrigan said. “I don’t think we lost any confidence, I think we are more acutely aware of what it takes to beat the very best teams. Every time [you play], I think you should learn a little something more about yourselves, if nothing else, so I think we have, and I think we’ll be better prepared to play Friday night because of our experience in the dome last Saturday.”

The Irish took all they could from the game against the Orange and have shifted their focus to the immediate future.

“We know that we have to play our best to win every game — no one is invincible at this level,” sophomore attack Ryan Foley said. “We’ve broken the game down, pointed out our mistakes and hopefully we can bring improvement to those areas this week in practice. It’s all about UNC now.”

Heading into the game against the Tar Heels (9-5, 1-2 ACC), Notre Dame must prepare to match up with a talented North Carolina team. The Notre Dame defense, which dropped to second nationally with 6.36 goals allowed per game after surrendering a season high 11 scores to the Orange, will be called on to slow down North Carolina’s potent attack.

“They’re a very talented offensive team that really puts a lot of pressure on you because they just have athletes everywhere,” Corrigan said. “I think they probably have as good of an attack unit, and particularly as good a dodging attack unit, as you’ll find in the country. So they put an awful lot of pressure on you from both ends of the offense, and I think defending them is where [our focus] will start.”

North Carolina’s offense is led by senior attack Billy Bitter and freshman attack Nicky Galasso. Bitter was recently named to his third straight All-ACC team and ranks second on the team with 34 points this season. Galasso, who leads the team with 51 points, including 29 assists, was named the ACC Freshman of the Year.

One of Notre Dame’s keys to hindering North Carolina’s prolific offense and generating some offense of its own will be to play a physical match, Corrigan said.

“I just would like to see us come back and challenge a little bit, physically challenge our individual matchups a little bit more — be a little more confrontational in our individual matchups,” he said.

Even with the challenges presented by North Carolina, the Irish are confident that their final regular season game will be one of their best.

“This week presents an opportunity to play a very hungry UNC team, and get back to playing the way we know we can,” Foley said.

Though the Irish are focused on preparing to meet the Tar Heels in the primetime matchup, if Syracuse were to stumble against unranked St. John’s (4-9, 2-3 Big East) Saturday, the Irish could find themselves with a share of the Big East title.

“We’re just focused on getting ourselves prepared for North Carolina,” Corrigan said. “Any of the rest of that is out of our control. The only thing we can do is to prepare ourselves to be at our best this Friday at North Carolina.”

Notre Dame will try to conclude the regular season with a win when it faces North Carolina Friday at 8:00 p.m.