No. 1 Irish face tough road tests in Denver, Virginia
Benjamin Padanilam | Thursday, March 9, 2017
Following its win over No. 2 Maryland, No. 1 Notre Dame will now prepare for its upcoming road games against No. 5 Denver and No. 11 Virginia over spring break.
The Irish (3-0) flew from the fourth spot to the top spot after unseating the previously top-ranked Terrapins (4-1) at Arlotta Stadium this past Saturday, earning all possible first-place votes in the Inside Lacrosse and USILA Coaches polls. Irish head coach Kevin Corrigan said he was most pleased with the way his team dictated the style of play in the win over Maryland, as the Irish forced the Terrapins to play on their terms.
“I thought we just really played with a very strong will in terms of making the game the way we wanted it and needed it to be — in terms of taking away their transition and their full-field plays and limiting it to a certain style,” Corrigan said. “It meant it was going to be a bit of a grind, but I thought we really did a good job of doing that.”
Now, the Irish will look to defend their new place in the polls over spring break with their first two true road games of the year, as they will square off against the Pioneers (4-1) on Sunday and the Cavaliers (4-2, 0-1 ACC) on March 18. For the first of the two-game set, Notre Dame is bracing itself for the same type of challenge from Denver as it saw from Maryland, Corrigan said.
“Denver is a very accomplished half-field team,” Corrigan said. “They’re playing more full-field this year, and they’re trying to take advantage of transition and continuous offensive pressure, but they’re also a very good half-field team. And we’re going to have to play very well as we did against Maryland in those situations.
“ … We need to make sure that we do the same thing. Like Maryland, they’ve scored off faceoffs consistently. Like Maryland, they’ve scored in the transition and unsettled situations that arise from substitutions. … It’s really a very similar challenge, in all honesty. … I think it’s going to be, in a lot of ways, a very similar game for us in terms of what the challenges are.”
And although the Irish defense met those challenges successfully against the Terrapins — it held the Maryland offense to just four goals in the win — the Irish offense found less success. After scoring 16 goals in each of its first two wins, the offense only managed five goals against the Terrapins. With only one of those scores coming off an assist, the Irish will need to limit turnovers and improve their ball movement going forward, as relying on individual players to beat their defenders on dodges limits the team’s offensive potential, Corrigan said.
“I didn’t think our ball movement was as good as it has been, and what happens when your ball movement slows down is that your off-ball movement slows down,” Corrigan said. “ … We just need to do a little bit better job, play a little more freely and — we just had a lot of bad turnovers in that Maryland game. They’re a very good team, and they were the cause of some of them, but we turned the ball over more in that one game than we had in the first two games combined in terms of our half-field turnovers. That’s not a good situation.”
Following the game at Denver, the Irish will then play its first ACC game of the season six days later against Virginia. Corrigan said he feels his team’s nonconference slate has prepared it well for a conference slate that features games against four of the nation’s top 11 teams.
“The great thing about our out-of-conference schedule is that it’s probably as good or better than anybody’s in the country,” Corrigan said. “We have the constant challenge through our schedule, whether it’s in conference or out of the conference. Virginia’s going to be very good — another team that’s really emphasizing, or re-emphasizing, the full-field approach to offense and really trying to be aggressive and giving everybody the freedom on their defensive end to go to the other end and make plays. … It’s the same challenge for us.”
The Irish will first hit the road to take on the Pioneers at 3 p.m. Saturday in Denver before traveling back across the country to battle the Cavaliers on March 18 at noon in Charlottesville, Virginia.