ND seeks revenge in Durham
Manuel De Jesus | Wednesday, April 1, 2015
After defeating Syracuse in double overtime Saturday, newly christened No. 1 Notre Dame will take on No. 6 Duke on Saturday in Durham, North Carolina, in a rematch of last year’s national championship game.
In four of the last five years, the Irish (6-1, 2-0 ACC) have had their championship goals have been cut short by the rival Blue Devils (7-3, 0-2 ACC). Two of those losses include a 6-5 loss in the 2010 national championship and last year’s 11-9 defeat in the title game.
Despite the shortcomings in the playoffs, Notre Dame has started off its season strong with wins over No. 7 Virginia and No. 2 Syracuse already under its belt. A big part of the team’s success so far has been a small change in its offensive philosophy. Last season, the Irish were led by All-American junior attack Matt Kavanagh, who carried the load offensively, scoring 42 goals. However, this season, Kavanagh has contributed 14 goals while leading the team in assists with 17.
“It’s something I’m doing different,” Kavanagh said of his changing offensive mentality. “We’re running a really good team offense. When everyone’s out there, we have confidence that anyone can put the ball in the back of the net, and that makes my job easier. I don’t have to go out there and just shoot it every time.”
Against Duke in last season’s championship game, Notre Dame struggled to find the back of the net, scoring just nine goals on 32 shots. It wasn’t until the fourth quarter that the Irish offense broke through, scoring five goals to close the gap against the Blue Devils. This season, Duke’s defense is allowing 12 goals per game, while Notre Dame stacks up with the ninth-best offense in the country.
Senior midfielder Jack Near, who scored the game winner in last week’s double-overtime victory against the Orange, said the key to this team is how balanced it is on both sides of the ball.
“We look to play both ways,” Near said. “We have offensive guys who can play defense, and I think that’s going to be important as we go down and make a playoff run. It puts a lot of pressure on the other teams.”
Sophomore goalkeeper Shane Doss, who made 12 saves against the Orange on Saturday, said the plan for the rest of the season is for the team to continue to maximize the abilities of everyone on the team.
“It’s incredibly hard on other teams to game plan against [us],” Doss said. “There’s no way for other teams to really predict what’s going to happen, so that makes us a really dangerous team, and that’ll be good for us going down the road for the rest of the season.”
The Blue Devils can be just as dangerous of an offensive team Saturday. The defending national champions already have four players who have notched 20 goals or more on the season — freshman attack Justin Guterding (33), junior midfielder Myles Jones (26), junior midfielder Deemer Class (23) and sophomore midfielder Jack Bruckner (21). Jones has also tallied a team-leading 22 assists so far.
Although Duke is coming off two straight losses to Syracuse and No. 8 North Carolina, Irish head coach Kevin Corrigan said the Irish are very aware of Duke’s abilities as a top-tier ACC team.
“We compete like hell Monday through Friday,” Corrigan said. “I love this conference because every game is a big game. Every game is meaningful, and that’s the challenge of it, but it’s also the joy of it.”
In the battle between two potent offenses, Notre Dame will to travel to Durham to take on Duke in a rematch of last year’s national championship game at 5 p.m. at Koskinen Stadium.