Irish ready to kick-start title chase against Hoyas
Kit Loughran | Friday, February 19, 2016
Following back-to-back seasons in which they watched a national championship title slip from their grasp, the top-ranked Irish opens their regular season against No. 14 Georgetown on Saturday.
The matchup will take place in Atlanta as part of the 2016 Cobb County Classic. Last year, Notre Dame kicked off the regular season against the Hoyas, and the Irish took home the 14-12 victory.
“I was impressed with [the Hoyas] last year,” Irish head coach Kevin Corrigan said. “I thought they were athletic, and they played with tremendous energy. They really came and competed and that was a hard fought game for us. Quite honestly, I expect them to be better this year.
“I think it should be a huge game for them to open the season, and I know they are a team that’s been improving over the last couple years, and I’m really expecting them to be a very good team.”
Georgetown faces the Irish after a 2015 season in which it made the Big East championship game. The Hoyas fell to Denver, 16-8, in the conference championship, and the Irish head into the 2016 season after a similar encounter with the Pioneers. Three weeks after knocking out the Hoyas, Denver took the Irish out of the running for the NCAA title with an 11-10 victory in the Final Four. Denver went on to win the championship game for its first national title ever.
With a chance at a fresh start, the Irish have turned to focus on themselves. A mix of returning veterans and young faces, Notre Dame brings an interesting mix to the field, and after starting their college careers last season, this year’s sophomores will represent the majority of the underclassmen, Corrigan said.
“We’ve got a lot of young guys who are gonna play,” Corrigan said. “We’ve got guys in the midfield who aren’t necessarily freshmen, but a couple sophomores — [midfielder] Brandon Collins played for us last year but was a defensive midfielder. [And midfielder] Pierre Byrne will get an opportunity to play, and I think a couple freshmen are gonna contribute.
“But I think you know they are gonna take their lead from the older guys, the experienced guys on the field, and those are the guys were really looking to be the stalwarts of our effort this weekend.”
Those ‘guys’ include seniors and recently-named captains defender Matt Landis and attack Matt Kavanagh, along with junior midfield Sergio Perkovic. Kavanagh and Perkovic ranked first and third in points on the team in 2015, netting 27 and 34 goals, respectively. All three players were selected to the preseason all-ACC team.
Georgetown also boasts a roster full of returning players, including midfielders sophomore Craig Berge and junior Peter Conley and sophomore goalie Nick Marrocco. Like Landis, Kavanagh and Perkovic in the ACC, the three were named to the preseason all-Big East team.
“They’ve got all their defensemen back and a terrific group of athletic midfielders in the middle of the field,” Corrigan said. “I think that ground balls and those kind of athletic plays in the middle of the field are going to be very important against a team like this.”
And the Hoyas have started to fine-tune the development of those players, Corrigan said.
“Georgetown has gotten a lot better every year. In the last four years they’ve gotten a new coach, and he’s starting to get his guys that he’s recruited. And they all buy into his system. They’re very well coached, very good athletes, good players. It’s definitely going to be a really good test. We’re looking forward to playing them, but we know it’s going to be a challenge.”
The Irish and Hoyas go head-to-head at the Cobby County Classic on Saturday in Atlanta. The contest is slated to begin at 11:30 a.m.