Irish prepare for rival Ohio State
Greg Hadley | Tuesday, March 25, 2014
Halfway through the regular season, No. 7 Notre Dame is still working out some kinks, but has the chance to build on its first win streak of the season against long-time rival Ohio State on Tuesday in Columbus, Ohio.The Irish (3-2, 2-0 ACC) dominated then-No. 8 Virginia at home March 16, taking first place in the ACC with an 18-9 win. With eight days to recover and prepare for the Buckeyes (2-5, 1-0 ECAC), the team focused on resolving issues that plagued them in losses against No. 18 Penn State and No. 6 Denver, Irish coach Kevin Corrigan said.
“We’re still learning about ourselves,” he said. “It’s a process. What we’ve shown is that if people are willing to go up and down the field with us and play a high possession game, then we can be pretty good.
“What we haven’t shown is that we can be effective in a game when they hold the ball and limit possessions. We still need the courage to make plays and take risks, but with a little more selectivity. That’s something that we’ve yet to prove on game day but … we’re a significantly better team than we were three weeks ago.”
The eight days off mark the longest break in the season for the Irish, who used the time to heal several nagging injuries and give players a brief respite from training before returning to practice later in the week, Corrigan said.
The Buckeyes have struggled so far this season, entering the year ranked No. 14 in the nation before losing five of their first six, including two in overtime. The Ohio State defense ranks 17th in the country, surrendering nine goals per game, but the offense has sputtered, producing just 8.43 goals per contest, good for 55th out of 67 Div. I lacrosse programs.
“They’re a very good team,” Corrigan said. “They’re struggling a bit record-wise but it’s not indicative of the quality of the team they have. They’ve played some really great teams to within one play. Not making just one play here or there is the difference between winning and losing. We expect to see their best in a game that we know they need to win, at their home.”
The Irish and the Buckeyes have a long history dating back to Notre Dame’s first varsity season in 1981. The two teams have played every year, with the Irish leading the all-time series 31-21, including wins in the past nine meetings.
This year, Ohio State will have to contain Irish senior midfielder Liam O’Connor, who has won 70.1 percent of his face-offs to rank second in the nation in that category. The senior is sixth in the nation in ground balls per game as well. O’Connor was added to the Tewaaraton Award watch list Friday, alongside sophomore attackman Matt Kavanagh and senior defenseman Stephen O’Hara. The Tewaaraton Award is given annually to the top collegiate lacrosse player.
“I was thrilled for Liam [to be added], and he’s earned it with his play to date,” Corrigan said. “But there is still a lot of season to go.
“The best thing that [the watch list] says to me is that we have an attackman, a midfielder and a defensemen, all of whom people think are among the best in the country. That really speaks to the balance of our team and that’s a strength that we have, so we’re going to continue to build off not only their play but the play of everyone around them.”
The Irish square off against the Buckeyes on Tuesday at 4 p.m., in Columbus, Ohio.