Squad gears up for challenging matchup with surging Buckeyes
Benjamin Padanilam | Thursday, March 23, 2017
After seeing its unbeaten start to the season come to an end over spring break against No. 7 Denver, No. 2 Notre Dame will look to return the favor when it hosts undefeated and fourth-ranked Ohio State on Saturday at Arlotta Stadium.
The Buckeyes (9-0, 0-0 Big Ten) have started the season off strongly, scoring more than 12 goals a game on average while conceding just over six. And they’ve only gotten better over the last week, beating two ranked teams — No. 16 Towson and the previously top-ranked Pioneers (5-2, 0-0 Big East) — by scores of 6-3 and 16-7, respectively. The Buckeyes have seven players with at least eight goals scored this season, giving them a balanced attack that will challenge the Irish (4-1, 1-0 ACC) this weekend, according to Irish head coach Kevin Corrigan.
“They share the ball very well. They’re a very good team, and they really do a good job of involving everyone because they move without the ball,” Corrigan said. “They move the ball very, very well — their passing is very good. And they don’t settle for bad shots, and so that puts a lot of pressure on you as a defensive team.”
But the Irish have a talented offense of their own, as they have averaged over 11 goals per game this season. The scoring has often started with sophomore attack Ryder Garnsey, who leads the team with 12 assists and 24 points on the season. Corrigan said Garnsey’s passing has been a big part of Notre Dame’s offensive success, as it enables the offense to run effectively within the team’s system.
“I think he’s getting a lot of assists because guys are moving very well,” Corrigan said of the sophomore. “Ryder’s got great eyes and great hands, and he can get the ball to people. But if people aren’t moving and getting themselves open, then he’s not going to have the same opportunities. I think they’re doing a great job of doing that for him. He’s been, certainly, a big part of our success, and I think it wouldn’t be happening without the other guys doing the job that they’re doing so well.”
The Irish offense is all the more dangerous when captain and senior midfielder Sergio Perkovic is firing on all cylinders. Despite leading the team with 32 shots, he had only scored four goals on the season prior to last Saturday’s win over Virginia. But in the 11-10 overtime victory, the senior scored three goals on just five shots in a performance that earned him ACC Offensive Player of the Week honors.
“All shooters want to see the ball go in. And it seems like when it’s easy, it’s easy and when it’s hard, it’s hard, but that’s just the way it is for shooters in any sport,” Corrigan said. “But I think [Perkovic] didn’t take any bad shots, he didn’t force things, he let the game come to him so, as a result, the chances that he got were all really good chances. And if he gets really good chances, he has all the confidence in the world that he’s going to make those consistently.”
However, Corrigan said the Irish will need both the offense and defense to be playing at the top of their game when the they welcome the Buckeyes on Saturday at 2 p.m. in Arlotta Stadium, as he believes Ohio State will be a difficult matchup given its confidence level and excellence in several areas of the game at this point in the season.
“They’re playing extremely well right now,” Corrigan said. “They’re playing kind of an aggressive, full-field style where they’re riding with nine and 10 guys a lot of times, and they’re pressing transition and really trying to get some easy goals. They’re facing off well [and] they’re playing good defense. They’re just playing well in a lot of areas of the game right now, and I think it’s going to be a real challenge because they’re playing so well and so confidently coming off [their] last two games.”