Men’s Lacrosse Capsules
Observer Sports Writers | Thursday, February 14, 2013
Senior goalie John Kemp is coming off a pair of stellar seasons in the Irish cage. As a sophomore in 2011, Kemp ranked second nationally in goals against average and earned honorable mention all-America honors as well as all-Big East accolades. In 2012 Kemp was a first team all-American and was one of 25 nominees for the Tewaaraton Award after playing all but seven minutes and 16 seconds in net for Notre Dame.
The X-factor this season will be consistent offensive output in the NCAA tournament. Though it’s months away, the Irish offense will need to kick into overdrive when the tournament rolls around. Last season Notre Dame scored just five goals in the national semifinal loss to Loyola. In 2011, the Irish fell in the NCAA quarterfinals to Duke after netting just five goals. In three tournament wins in the past two seasons, however, Notre Dame has averaged nearly 13 goals per game.
6.31. In 2012 Notre Dame allowed an average of 6.31 goals per game, the top mark in the nation. The Irish play a slower, grind-it-out style of lacrosse than many teams across the nation, yet their defense is still prodigious for any pace. With three of the four backline players returning for the Irish – Kemp, Miller and O’Hara – expect more defensive dominance from Notre Dame. Junior Brian Buglione steps into the void created by the since-graduated Kevin Randall.
The Irish will be infused with new blood on attack with the arrival of freshman Matt Kavanagh. The 5-foot-8 rookie spent a year of prep school at Hotchkiss (Conn.) and was the nation’s top-ranked post-graduate player according to Inside Lacrosse. Kavanagh led Team USA with 20 goals at the Under-19 World Championships in Finland over the summer and was named tournament MVP. Kavanagh netted a buzzer-beating goal from his stomach in Notre Dame’s scrimmage against Detroit on Feb. 2.
Notre Dame returns eight of its 10 starters from last season. Kemp, Miller, O’Hara, Foley, Marlatt, Hopkins and Rogers started all 16 games while Doyle started 15 as a freshman. The Irish have a slew of contributing upperclassmen cycling in off the bench and are both deep and experienced. Irish coach Kevin Corrigan will be looking for similar results from a team that finished 13-3 overall, lost just one game in the regular season and ripped off a string of 10 consecutive wins from the beginning of March through the end of April.
The Irish do just what they did in the regular season a year ago: dominate. Except this time they ride that momentum into the Big East tournament, where they make it out of the first round, make another run to the Final Four and explode offensively en route to a national title. The upperclassmen build on last year’s success and newcomers such as Kavanagh and Buglione fill the voids left by last year’s seniors without missing a beat.
The Irish don’t win the close games. The bounces don’t go their way. Notre Dame won two overtime games in 2012, including a triple overtime thriller against Denver. The squad won three games by one goal and four games by two goals. The Irish struggle to replace Max Pfeifer and Kevin Randall and teams follow the Loyola blueprint of shutting down Notre Dame’s offense while finding ways to penetrate the typically stout defense.
The Irish began the season ranked ninth in the nation and bested No. 2 Duke 7-3 in the season opener. After losing to Penn State in overtime the next weekend, Notre Dame tore off 10 straight wins and ascended to No. 2 in the rankings before the Big East tournament. Notre Dame fell to St. John’s 8-7 in the conference semifinals but still earned the No. 4 seed in the NCAA tournament. The Irish defeated Yale and Virginia in the opening two rounds before losing to Loyola 7-5 in the national semifinals.
Game to Watch
The season opener, Feb. 16, against Duke in Durham, N.C. The No. 4 Blue Devils enter the 2013 campaign a spot behind the third-ranked Irish. This matchup has become a rivalry over the past few seasons. In each of the last three years Notre Dame, a typically dominant team in February, has defeated Duke, a notorious slow starter, in the Irish’s season opener. In 2011 and 2010, however, Duke avenged those early losses by knocking Notre Dame out of the postseason. In 2010, Duke defeated the Irish 6-5 in overtime to win the NCAA championship.