Notre Dame eyes bounce back win in ACC semifinal against Duke
Kit Loughran | Wednesday, April 27, 2016
After an unexpected loss to end its regular season, No. 4 Notre Dame now sets its sights on postseason play in the ACC tournament.
The second-seeded Irish (9-2, 3-1 ACC) will take on No. 14 and third-seeded Duke in the second semifinal of the conference tournament Friday at Fifth Third Bank Stadium in Kennesaw, Georgia. The Irish enter the tournament as the No. 2 seed after falling to now No. 10 North Carolina this past Saturday, 17-15. The Irish lost their No. 1 ranking in the defeat and gave up the ACC regular-season title to the Tar Heels.
“Against UNC, we did some really good things that were overlooked by the mental errors we had that cost us the game,” senior defender Matt Landis said. “Coming back this week, we’re looking to clean up those mistakes and push towards playing a full 60 minutes of great offense, defense and everything in between.”
Putting the loss behind them, the Irish face the Blue Devils (9-6, 2-2) for the second time this season. Notre Dame hosted Duke on April 10, when a strong second half fueled the Irish past the Blue Devils, 8-6. Like Notre Dame, Duke competed in two games since playing in Arlotta Stadium, recording wins against Virginia on April 17 and Marquette on April 22.
Just three games later, the Blue Devils aren’t the same team the Irish beat in 41-degree weather that Sunday at Arlotta Stadium.
“Duke is a really good team, and they are very well coached,” Landis said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if they added some new schemes to their offense to try and generate more offense against us.
“So for us, it will be about adjusting to anything new, while being cognizant of the plays that they ran the first game.”
Duke senior midfielder Myles Jones will be part of those plays the Blue Devils ran that first game. Jones is now the first midfielder in Division I lacrosse history to post 100 career assists and 100 career goals, with 29 goals and 32 assists on this season alone. Defensively, the Irish will be targeting weapons like Jones and sophomore attack Justin Guterding, who leads the Blue Devils with 37 goals and also has 26 assists.
While the Tar Heels reckoned with Notre Dame’s top-ranked defense, scoring seven consecutive goals in a little more than seven minutes, Landis said he’s confident the Irish defense is ready for Friday.
“Guarding people right away will be key,” Landis said. “If we can be aggressive on ball and really force them to beat us one-on-one, I think we’ll have a really good day.”
On the other end of the field, Notre Dame has continued to find its rhythm. The Irish have netted 23 goals since last meeting Duke, when the offense sprung to life late in the second half with two consecutive goals by junior attack Sergio Perkovic in the fourth period to win the game.
“I think our offense has really begun to find their stride,” Landis said. “They put up 15 against a really strong North Carolina defense, and I expect them to come out with the same type of aggressiveness this game.”
That aggressiveness has gotten the Irish to where they stand now in the ACC championship picture. The winner of the matchup between Notre Dame and Duke will play the winner of the contest between the top-seeded Tar Heels (8-5, 3-1) and fourth-seeded Syracuse (8-4, 2-2) Sunday at noon in the championship match.
“We’re trying to maintain the same level of focus that we’ve had all year to be successful,” Landis said. “On game day, everyone wants to win just as badly as the next guy because it’s win or go home.
“The team who has that attitude during the week for practice will be most prepared for game day.”
Notre Dame and Duke will meet in the semifinals of the ACC tournament Friday in Kennesaw, Georgia, at 8:30 p.m.