Matt Landis offers Tewaarton-level talent, leadership to Irish defense
Brian Plamondon | Wednesday, April 20, 2016
Take a glance at senior defender Matt Landis’ stat-line and nothing will stick out at you about his career at Notre Dame.
Zero points in four years, 90 total ground balls.
Then why are some, including Lax Magazine and Notre Dame sports website One Foot Down, clamoring for Landis to win the the Tewaarton Award, which annually recognizes the most outstanding lacrosse player in the nation?
It’s because the captain is last year’s USILA William C. Schmeisser Award winner for best defender in the nation and is arguably the best player on the current No. 1 team and the No. 2 defense in country.
For Landis, however, the team comes before the individual.
“I think the most important thing is to not focus on myself and get too caught up with the past,” Landis said. “Honestly, our defense is one of the best in the country and has been for the past couple years. Somebody has to get that individual attention, and [it’s great] that it happened to me. But the reason why I’m so good is not because of me — it’s because of all six guys back there. And I’m very real about that. It’s not just my role — it’s everybody else’s role that matters.”
The defense in general has had one of the best statistical years in recent history. Averaging only 6.60 goals against per game, the Irish have held all 10 of their opponents under their season average for goals so far.
Landis believes a lot of their success can be attributed to how the entire starting defense returned from last year, as well as most of the key players on midfield and attack, he said.
“Everyone is pretty comfortable with how everyone plays,” Landis said. “We’re not really learning any more about one another; we’re comfortable with one another.”
Even so, the Notre Dame defense has dealt with adversity. Junior and starting defender Garrett Epple has only started six of the Irish’s 10 games this year due to injury, pushing reserves like senior Jack Sheridan into starting roles.
“It’s a great comfort to know that everyone works just as hard so that they can help the team win, and that there’s not a very noticeable effect with the change of personnel,” Landis said.
Whether with the usual starting three or a change in personnel, the Irish have performed admirably under pressure this season. Five out of their last six games have been decided by two goals or less, including three that have gone to overtime. Late in the game, however, Landis and company have been buckling down.
“Our goal is to ultimately go into the playoffs … and they’re gonna be really close games,” Landis said. “It’s a great comfort knowing that we play such good team defense that our offense can rely on us sometimes to relieve the pressure.”
The unique thing about Notre Dame this season is the depth they have across all four classes, a trait which is not limited to its defense. In addition to the experience of the core playing together, Landis said the team’s depth might be the key to making this season different from past years.
“It’s great to have so many guys playing, and it’s unique to have this amount of talent,” Landis said. “[There are] a lot of guys with talent and ability, and if we put that together, I think there’s no reason why we shouldn’t be right there at the end of the year.”
For all intents and purposes, if the Irish are playing in the national championship game at the end of the year, Landis will have played a huge role.
In addition to the Schmiesser award, Landis also won ACC Defensive Player of the Year last year, two separate Defensive-Player-of-the-Week honors this spring, the Weaver-James-Corrigan postgraduate scholarship from the ACC and was honored as a preseason All-American this year.
Still, Landis only has his eyes set on one award come late May.
“[Getting all those awards], I think it’s cool,” Landis said. “But there’s only one real award I’m after — to win a national championship. It’s great to win all these awards, but, to be honest, I’m looking for something else. An All-American award means something, but I want a ring.”
And what about those clamoring for Landis to become the first defensive player ever to win the Tewaarton Award?
“I think it would be a great honor,” Landis said. “I’m not focusing on any stuff like that, though — I’m focusing on my matchup and my job every time I step on the field.”
If Landis keeps playing his game and thinking like that, late May and early June could be an exciting time for the Irish.