Irish fall to Tar Heels in ACC regular-season finale
Benjamin Padanilam | Monday, April 23, 2018
In its penultimate regular-season contest and final game before the ACC tournament, No. 15 Notre Dame hoped to carry forward the momentum of its 7-6 comeback win against Marquette on April 11 — the last time it took the field — in its contest Saturday with North Carolina in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Instead, the Irish came away with a tight 10-9 loss to the Tar Heels.
“You don’t get momentum from a loss,” Irish head coach Kevin Corrigan said of the defeat. “The [North] Carolina game was like a few too many other games this year where we do enough good things for us to know that we can be a really good team, but we do enough bad things where we keep ourselves from being a really good team. If we can get out of our own way, then we have a chance to be a really good team.”
The Irish (6-5, 1-3 ACC) and Tar Heels (7-7, 1-3) were neck-and-neck throughout the contest, matching one another’s scoring output in three of the game’s four quarters. The difference came in the second quarter, as the Tar Heels outscored the Irish 3-2 to take a 5-4 lead into halftime.
In the first half, the Irish were led by junior attack Ryder Garnsey, as he scored both of his goals in the game in the first half. The two teams were roughly even in possession throughout the half as well, as the Tar Heels had 11 ground balls to Notre Dame’s 10 and both teams put up 16 shots.
The second half, however, was dominated largely by the Irish in every facet except scoring.
The Irish won 10 face-offs to North Carolina’s two — fueling a 17-5 advantage for the Irish in the game. The Irish also had 23 second-half ground balls against North Carolina’s 14, allowing the Irish to turn those possessions into 25 second-half shots compared to North Carolina’s 14 shots. But the added possession would prove to not be enough, as the Tar Heels took advantage of a few Irish mistakes to do just enough to hold on to their advantage.
“Our wings did a great job; [senior face-off specialist] John Travisano did a great job; but the problem is, we cost ourselves two goals at the face-off,” Corrigan said of his face-off group. “So the great productivity that we had there in terms of getting possession was negated by the fact that we gave up two goals in the face-off game, and that’s unacceptable.”
The Irish mistakes proved costly in the second half, as they totaled 12 of their 15 turnovers in the third and fourth quarters and finished just 2-for-7 in the second half in scoring on man-up opportunities. Both goals came from sophomore midfielder Bryan Costabile, who continues to get healthier after missing time with an undisclosed injury, as part of his hat trick. Junior attack Brendan Gleason also returned to action for the first time since Notre Dame’s 9-8 win over Ohio State on March 25, tallying two assists in the contest.
“Brendan gives us another guy who can beat his man and move the defense,” Corrigan said of the impact of Gleason’s return to action. “Having him and Costabile out there — even though neither one is at 100 percent right now, having them both back on the field makes us a different team.”
Now, the Irish will look ahead to the ACC tournament, drawing a semifinal matchup with No. 3 Duke. The Irish played the Blue Devils (12-2, 3-1) earlier this season, suffering their largest defeat of the season in an 8-2 loss at Arlotta Stadium on April 7. This time, the game will be played Friday at Klockner Stadium in Charlottesville, Virginia. Corrigan said he thinks his team has all the pieces and talent to win out, but it just has to find a way to display that talent consistently.
“We’ve got all the people we need to be a really good team,” Corrigan said. “We’ve proven we can do all the things that a really good team needs to do. We just haven’t done it consistently, and we haven’t done them over the course of a game all together in the different phases of the game. If we can do that, then we can run the table and get ourselves to the tournament. And if we can’t do that, then we’ll continue to struggle.”