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Men’s Lacrosse: Notre Dame seeks revenge against rival Blue Devils

Mike Monaco | Thursday, February 16, 2012

Notre Dame and Duke will write the next chapter of their rivalry Saturday, when the No. 9 Irish kick off their 2012 campaign against second-ranked Blue Devils.

The two teams are familiar foes, having met four times in the past two seasons. One of those meetings came in the 2010 NCAA national championship, which the Blue Devils won 6-5 in overtime.

“The thing is all four games in the last two years have been great games,” Irish coach Kevin Corrigan said. “They’ve won two and we’ve won two. That being said, we would gladly trade it all for that championship in 2010, but the thing is all the games have been really well contested between two pretty evenly matched teams.”

Once again, Corrigan expects his team to stack up evenly against Duke.

“I think we match up fine with them,” Corrigan said. “It’s not a matter of our athleticism. It’s our decision-making. We have plenty of athleticism and will be able to handle them. It comes down to being smart and being selective in the opportunities we want to take in the full field game. We need to make sure we get back [on defense] and do not give them easy transition goals.”

While the Irish are not concerned with their own athleticism, they are fully aware of the skilled athletes the Blue Devils put on the field, Corrigan said. Among those athletes are senior midfielder Justin Turri and senior midfielder C.J. Costabile, both recently named to the watch list for the 2012 Tewaaraton Award, given to the top player in collegiate lacrosse. According to Corrigan, keeping these midfielders in check and slowing them down is a top priority.

“The biggest challenge for us is the athleticism they have in the middle of the field and the way they use that to try to play an aggressive full-field style of game,” Corrigan said. “The challenge for us is to control tempo and make sure the game is being played at our pace. We can’t let them get out and get easy goals in transition.”

To control the Blue Devils, the Irish will need to use a different strategy than in prior years. In 2011, the Irish featured a host of upperclassmen, including five since-graduated all-Americans. The beginning of this year will be a different story, as a total team effort will be called upon to battle top teams like Duke, Corrigan said.

“We did lose five all-Americans from last year but at the same time I’m confident in the guys we have,” Corrigan said. “We’re not looking at any one guy [to carry us]. As a group these guys have worked really hard and I’m really confident in our guys.”

Midfielder Max Pfeifer, defenseman Kevin Randall and attack Nicholas Beattie will lead the 2012 team as senior co-captains after all seeing double-digit starts last season. Others who will be counted on heavily include sophomore attack Westy Hopkins, senior attack Sean Rogers and junior goalie John Kemp. Hopkins and Rogers tied for the team lead in goals last season with 18 apiece, while Kemp started all 14 games and was also recently named to the Tewaaraton watch list.

Just as Corrigan is not worried about the loss of last year’s all-Americans, so too is he not worried about expectations for the Irish, both for the season and in the season opener.

“We don’t burden ourselves with expectations,” Corrigan said. “We’ve been working hard and we’re excited to get started. I know our guys will play as hard and well as they can … If we play smart and hard I know we’ll make enough plays and we should be fine.”

Notre Dame looks to gain the edge in its growing rivalry with Duke at 1 p.m. Saturday at Arlotta Stadium.