Notre Dame overcomes tough schedule in pursuit of first national title
R.J. Stempak | Friday, May 19, 2017
With the toughest schedule in the nation this season, the No. 7 Irish faced ups and downs throughout.
After starting the season 3-0 — including a 5-4 win over No. 1 Maryland — Notre Dame (9-5, 2-2 ACC) dropped a close rematch of the 2015 NCAA semifinal game against Denver. The team had two more win streaks of two or more games, as well as two more sets of consecutive losses, giving the season its hot and cold character.
Notre Dame’s last victory before the NCAA tournament began came over No. 6 Duke in the semifinals of the ACC tournament, before falling to No. 9 North Carolina in the ACC title game. But at the end of the day, Irish head coach Kevin Corrigan said he is pleased with what his team has done, given the difficult schedule.
“Resilience is the strongest attribute of this team,” Corrigan said. “We have played the hardest schedule in the country, and if you look at the top six or seven teams right now, I think we have played them all. It’s hard to play a schedule like we have, and it takes a team with some mental toughness to tee it up every week and come back against another top team, regardless of what happened the week before.
“I am proud of how our guys battled. We haven’t been out of a game all year, and we have won our share, which I think is pretty great, given the task we have had.”
The team has been anchored on the defensive end by senior captain and goalkeeper Shane Doss. Doss has led the No. 22 scoring defense in the country with a .524 save percentage. Alongside Doss all year has been fellow senior defenseman Garrett Epple, who earned back-to-back ACC Defensive Player of the Week honors during the season, and is currently No. 19 in the nation in turnovers caused per game with 1.54. Corrigan said the team has been led by the entire senior class, who have helped the captains throughout the year.
“In large, I think the seniors have been very good,” Corrigan said. “I think we have a group who took it as a collective responsibility to handle our leadership this year. Our captains have certainly been a part of it, and done their role, but it really has been the whole class, from the beginning of the year until now that has decided that they want that leadership to be a part of their legacy and I think they have done a very good job with that, right from the start of fall practice until now.”
Offensively, standout sophomore attack Ryder Garnsey leads the team in points with 42. Junior attack Mikey Wynne leads the team in goals with 30 and sophomore midfielder Brendan Gleason has begun to make a name for himself, emerging with two hat tricks in the final two games of the regular season.
Garnsey has been the focal point of the offense, a deadly scorer from the wing. He tallied six goals in the season opener, a 16-10 victory over Georgetown. Since then, he has been the focus of opposing defenses and he has been able to lead the team in assists with 22. Corrigan said Garnsey must work on his consistency for the team to play to the best of its ability.
“Ryder is a very good player, but he has to become more consistent in order for our team to reach its potential,” Corrigan said. “I think Ryder is like a lot of our guys, in that he is a work in progress. He has made progress from a year ago and needs to continue to make progress. Our year is not over, so I am still looking for him to make progress, along with the rest of the team, in the … weeks we hope to have left in our season.”
In the first round of the NCAA tournament, the No. 4 seed Irish took down Marquette at Arlotta Stadium, 15-9. They were lifted to victory by five goals from Gleason and a career-high four goals from junior midfielder Brendan Collins.
The Irish will continue their NCAA tournament berth as they once again face off against No. 5 seed Denver (12-3, 5-0 Big East) in the tournament quarterfinals at Shuart Stadium in Hempstead, New York.