Notre Dame defense earns rare shutout in win over Ohio State
Greg Hadley | Monday, March 23, 2015
Under normal circumstances, switching goalies with five minutes left in a blowout win would hardly matter for No. 3 Notre Dame and its fans.
But when Irish head coach Kevin Corrigan subbed senior Conor Kelly in for sophomore Shane Doss with 4:25 left against No. 15 Ohio State this Saturday, murmurs broke out among the 2,109 in attendance at Arlotta Stadium.
The Irish (5-1, 1-0 ACC) were up 9-0 at the time, chasing just the second shutout in program history. Doss had made 11 saves on the day, successfully defending 22 shots and killing off four man-up opportunities for the Buckeyes (7-3, 0-0 Big Ten). Kelly had not seen the field in over 175 minutes, and the Buckeyes once again had a man advantage. Corrigan said he felt bad putting Kelly in for such a high-pressure situation but never considered not making the switch.
“I apologized to [Kelly],” Corrigan said. “I said, ‘I hate to put anyone in on a man-down [situation]. It’s just not fair.’ But we had wanted to get him in, and it was the only break we had to do it, so I apologized to him, and I put him in there.”
Kelly stayed cool under pressure, collected two saves and secured the 9-o shutout for the Irish, their first since 1984. With the win, Notre Dame joined a small group of teams that have prevented their opponents from scoring for a full 60 minutes. Since 2007, there had been just five shutouts (not including Saturday’s game) in all of Division I college lacrosse. None of those wins came over a ranked opponent.
For all the superlatives, however, Corrigan kept the win in perspective.
“I’m not naïve,” Corrigan said. “[The Buckeyes] were a little tired. They had a midweek game in Baltimore after a tough game a week ago, and then they come back … and they got to play us here. So that’s a tough week for them. Our guys just did a great job of not giving them anything. It kind of gives them the energy to stay in a game like that.”
For the first half of play, it looked as though the game would be a defensive battle throughout. Ohio State entered the matchup with the fourth-ranked defense in the country, and redshirt sophomore goalie Tom Carey successfully limited Notre Dame’s sixth-ranked offense to just three scores through 30 minutes of play. However, the Irish began to pull away within the first few minutes of the second half, with senior midfielder Nick Ossello scoring twice unassisted in a span of 90 seconds.
“We were smart on offense. We didn’t have a lot of bad possessions,” Corrigan said. “That helps the defense. You’re not spending the whole game on the defensive end of the field but because your offense is not only scoring some goals but really doing a good job with possession. … Anytime one side of the ball has a big day, there’s a piece of [credit] that goes to the other side of the field as well.”
The Irish entered the game with the nation’s worst man-down defense, stopping opponents just 30.8 percent of the time. Five times in the second half, the Buckeyes had a man advantage, but each time, they were stonewalled by the Irish defense.
“I kept thinking they’re going to have get one at some point if they keep getting these man-ups,” Doss said. “But our man-down defense did a phenomenal job, and they didn’t have anything to easy on their man-ups. The defense helped me make saves that I’m able to make.”
Doss’ save percentage bumped up from 55.7 percent to 61.1, good for fourth in the country.
The team’s goals-allowed average dropped from 9 to 7.5 per game, shooting the Irish from 22nd in the country to seventh.
The Irish backline of sophomore defenseman Garrett Epple and juniors Matt Landis and Edwin Glazener enjoyed its best game of the season, limiting the Buckeyes to fewer shots on goal (13) than turnovers (22). Seventeen different players collected ground balls, including seven from Epple, who entered the matchup averaging 2.8 per contest.
The Irish defense started the game 27th in the NCAA in caused turnovers per game with seven. After the game, it bumped its average up to 8.17 caused turnovers, good for seventh in the nation.
“We just stuck to the gameplan of playing fundamental team defense,” Epple said. “Just a lot of communication is something we harped on all week with Coach, and we just came out there and outplayed them. We were all over ground balls, too, which is a big part of the game.”
The Irish have the week off before they face No. 1 Syracuse next Saturday at home.