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Men’s Lacrosse: Notre Dame set to play familiar opponent

By Mike Monaco | Friday, February 22, 2013

Despite a successful 2012 season, No. 3 Notre Dame would like this weekend to go a little differently than it did last year.

Last year, the Irish downed then-No. 2 Duke, 7-3, in the season opener.

Notre Dame followed that up, however, by falling to Penn State 4-3 in overtime.

This year’s squad is fresh off Saturday’s 13-5 demolition of then-No. 4 Duke heading into Sunday’s matchup with the No. 9 Nittany Lions (2-0) at noon in University Park, Pa.

Irish junior midfielder Jim Marlatt, who scored a career-high five goals Saturday, said Notre Dame (1-0) is out for revenge after last year’s lackluster performance against Penn State.

“Our defense played out of their minds [but] our offense cost us the game,” Marlatt said of the overtime loss. “I think it’s that simple. We didn’t execute to our full potential. So I think that’s a big part of redeeming ourselves.”

If Saturday’s rout of Duke is any indication, scoring will not be a problem for the 2013 Irish. In addition to Marlatt’s five-goal output, freshman attack Matt Kavanagh netted four goals in his collegiate debut. Senior attack Sean Rogers and senior midfielder Steve Murphy added two goals each. The 13 goals were the most for the Irish in a season opener since 2005 against Penn State.

“It’s a good start, good momentum,” Marlatt said. “It was fun to play someone else other than ourselves after five weeks of preseason. So it was a good start, something to build on. Last year we beat Duke and then we kind of laid an egg against Penn State, especially offensively so we definitely need to focus on building off that 13 goal performance.”

The Nittany Lions posted a dominant offensive performance of their own Sunday against No. 11 Denver. Penn State exploded for 15 goals against the Pioneers after burying 11 in a season-opening win over Michigan. Junior attack Shane Sturgis leads the squad with eight goals through two games. Sturgis and senior attack Jack Forster ripped four goals each against Denver.

“We watched the second half,” Irish senior goalie John Kemp said of the Penn State win over Denver. “So we saw how much offensive firepower [the Nittany Lions] have. They shot the ball hard. They took good shots. Offensively they kind of did what they wanted so we’ve got to prepare for them obviously offensively.”

Kemp, an All-American in 2012, powered an experienced Irish defense against the Blue Devils on Saturday. Notre Dame led the nation in goals-against average last year, and Duke mustered just five goals as Kemp notched 10 saves in the cage.

“[Our defensive performance Saturday] is something to go out and kind of emulate,” Kemp said. “We just go into every game the same way, knowing that we have to communicate, take everyone’s role and be there for each other. Defensively it’s a thing where everyone has to do their part for us to succeed so everyone’s just got to go in and play the way that we want everyone to play.”

Marlatt said he sees a lot of similarities between the Nittany Lions and the Blue Devils.

“I think [Penn State] is pretty similar to Duke but maybe a little more disciplined,” Marlatt said. “They’re aggressive. They put two poles on the faceoff so we know they’re going to come out, try to be aggressive at first and then kind of sink in.”

Last year, the Irish weathered the initial aggressiveness from Penn State, holding the Nittany Lions scoreless for the first 21 minutes. Defense wasn’t the problem, Kemp said.

“We didn’t really play very well offensively last year,” Kemp said. “We definitely want to get back at them, I think that was the first time we lost to them in quite some time. They’re a good team.”

Marlatt, meanwhile, said the Irish are excited to face a familiar foe.

“It’s a team we’re familiar with – we’ve played them in the past – so we’re looking forward to it,” Marlatt said.

The Irish seek revenge against Penn State on Sunday at noon in University Park, Pa.

Contact Mike Monaco at [email protected]