Irish set to host Black Knights for final game of regular season
Meagan Bens | Wednesday, May 2, 2018
After being crowned the ACC champion with its 17-7 victory over No. 10 Virginia this past Sunday, No. 8 Notre Dame will host Army on Saturday for its last regular-season home game.
The Irish (8-5, 1-3 ACC) had an explosive offense showing Sunday, as six different players registered multiple goals against Virginia (12-5, 1-3 ACC) for a season-high scoring output. Additionally, the Irish defense locked down the Cavaliers’ attack and limited it to seven goals, tied for the fewest the squad has scored all season — the other time being Notre Dame’s 9-7 win over the Cavaliers on March 17. Heading into the last home game, Irish head coach Kevin Corrigan said the team is focusing on building from last weekend.
“The biggest thing in that game, and the whole weekend, was our ground ball play,” Corrigan said. “We won the 50-50 ground balls in that game. That preserved possessions for us, and that got possessions for us out of the face-off game. That meant our defensive stops turned into possessions at the other end of the field. It just was a great effort by our entire team getting the ball off the ground and clearing and getting it to the other end.”
Among the strong defensive play from the Irish, Corrigan said senior long-stick midfielder John Sexton has notably led the defense on the field.
“John Sexton was outstanding, has been all year,” Corrigan said. “But he’s really hitting his stride right now. Defensively, he is playing great. He is on the ball, and he is as good as it is at getting the ball off the ground. I think our short-stick [defensive midfielders] are doing a great job now. And that takes a lot of pressure off your defense because people like to pick on the short sticks out there. When they don’t have that advantage of picking on the short sticks, it becomes that much harder to generate offense. [Junior] Drew Schantz, [graduate student] Carlson Milikin, [junior] Timmy Phillips — those guys have been doing a terrific job for us.”
The Irish last played the Black Knights (5-7, 2-6 Patriot) and lost 10-9 in overtime in West Point, New York, last year. Compared to last year’s team going into that game, the Irish are much healthier now and more prepared mentally and physically, Corrigan said.
“We lost in overtime in a game that meant everything to them, and while it meant something to us, it didn’t have the same weight as them,” Corrigan said. “I just don’t think we brought the right intensity in that game. We were banged up, had a couple guys that were hurt. Right now, we are going the other direction. We are getting healthy as we get to the end of the year, and I like that a lot more than where we were a year ago at this time.”
During practice this week, Corrigan said the team will focus on building from their ground-ball play, which made them successful the week before.
“I just think [ground-ball play] is such a key to what happens in the game,” Corrigan said. “And it is particularly a key for this team. I think that’s something we have to continue to emphasize and be good at. And that makes everything else easy. It makes possessions easier, everything easier. It’s such a critical part of our game.”
Notre Dame and Army will face off at Arlotta Stadium at 1 p.m. Saturday to cap off the regular season.