Plamondon: Offense needs to deliver come tournament time
Brian Plamondon | Wednesday, April 6, 2016
Having been at the helm for 28 years, Irish head coach Kevin Corrigan knows what it takes to make it through a long season. One of the common themes that he instills in his players is to never look ahead but to take the season day-by-day instead.
“[I’m] not getting caught up in expectations, because the only expectation that I want them to have is that we’re going to be as well prepared as we can possibly be every time we strap it up on Saturdays,” Corrigan said before the start of the season.
He even has his players talking that way.
“I think we’re trying to … leave the field better than we stepped on [every day],” senior defender Matt Landis said earlier in the year. “If we look at it that way, and we’re not getting better every day, I don’t think we’ll get to the national championship.”
So what will it take for Notre Dame to finally get over the hump and win its first national championship?
To put it bluntly, Notre Dame has been here before. The Irish have been to four of the last six final fours, including two runner-up finishes. This time, as the 2016 lacrosse season pushes into April, the Irish find themselves ranked No. 1 with a record of 7-1. They have played sound lacrosse for the most part, only losing once in overtime to the defending national champion, Denver.
If this is to be the year, however, a few things need to change.
While the Irish will need to make some adjustments, they should not have to worry about their defense moving forward.
Returning all three starters and led by a preseason All-American in Landis, the Irish are in good hands. Nationally, they rank third in scoring defense, allowing only 6.63 goals per game.
In fact, the Irish have held all eight of their opponents under their average-scoring outputs for the season, including allowing just four goals against No. 5 Maryland.
If Notre Dame is to break through, the key will be on the offensive end. Somehow, that is where the Irish have stalled in May in recent memory. In fact, Notre Dame is averaging only 6.86 goals per game in the games it has been eliminated in the tournament over the last seven seasons.
Does the offense have what it takes this year?
With the defense stifling opponents, the offense has done what it needs to do so far, averaging 11 goals per game. But that stat ranks an underwhelming 23rd nationally amongst 68 teams, behind every other top 10 team but Maryland and No. 10 Navy.
What it may come down to is the resurgence of Notre Dame’s two preseason All-Americans on the offensive end, senior attack Matt Kavanagh and junior midfielder Sergio Perkovic. Kavanagh, coming off 69 goals combined over his last two seasons, has just 10 over his first seven games in 2016. Perkovic has just 14 tallies in eight games, which is well behind the pace he was at last season when he scored 34.
That being said, Kavanagh may finally be coming into his own after scoring three goals in Notre Dame’s rout of Syracuse on Saturday.
Either way, the Irish absolutely need Kavanagh and Perkovic to be at their best come tournament time. This team has no shortage of threats — particularly with another fantastic season from sophomore attack Mikey Wynne and the emergence of others like freshman attack Ryder Garnsey — but it needs leaders like Kavanagh and Perkovic to turn it into another gear. Those two need to make sure this team does not fizzle out due to its offense as it has in years past.
As has been Corrigan’s mantra, Notre Dame will take it one day at a time. Somewhere along the way, however, Kavanagh and Perkovic must find their form and take the reigns for this Irish team. If they do not, Notre Dame’s 2016 season may end in heartbreak like so many in recent memory.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.