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Men’s Lacrosse: No. 3 Irish take on Rutgers

Sam Gans | Friday, March 22, 2013

After a 9-4 victory over No. 8 Ohio State on Wednesday, the No. 3 Irish will face their first unranked opponent of the season when they travel to Piscataway, N.J., to take on Rutgers in their Big East opener on Sunday.

Though the Scarlet Knights (2-6, 0-1 Big East) have not had as much success this season as other opponents Notre Dame (5-1) has played, Irish coach Kevin Corrigan said Rutgers nevertheless demands Notre Dame’s complete focus. 

“There are no walks in the park in Division I lacrosse right now,” Corrigan said after the win over the Buckeyes. “We’re just going to focus on Rutgers, because we know we have a lot of schedule left to play and we can’t do anything other than take care of the one right in front of us, and that’s Rutgers on Sunday.”

One of the biggest keys to a victory in Sunday’s game could be winning face-offs. The Scarlet Knights will enter the contest ranked No. 2 in the country in face-off winning percentage this season at a .681 clip – 31 spots ahead of the Irish. Rutgers sophomore midfielder Joseph Nardella won 27-of-37 face-offs in a 20-13 loss to St. John’s on Saturday.

Irish junior midfielder Liam O’Connor will match up against Nardella. O’Connor has a .520 face-off win percentage on the season after a 9-for-17 performance against the Buckeyes and has also notched three goals and one assist through six games.

“Liam’s been great this year, and he’s not just been winning face-offs but making plays with the ball in his stick and playing great defense when he does lose them,” Corrigan said. “He’s doing a lot of things right for us right now.”

The Scarlet Knights have two big offensive threats in junior attackmen Nick DePaolera and Scott Klimchak, who have 26 points and 25 points this season, respectively. No one else on the roster has scored more than 13 points.

The Scarlet Knights are coming off a 13-goal outburst, but the defensive side of the field has not been as kind to Rutgers. Rutgers sits in the bottom-10 of the NCAA in scoring defense, allowing 10.75 goals per game.

The Irish take on the Scarlet Knights at 1 p.m. on Sunday in Piscataway, N.J.