Irish top Johns Hopkins in first round of NCAA tournament
Hayden Adams | Monday, May 13, 2019
In the midst of a moderate yet unrelenting rainfall, No. 7 Notre Dame defeated Johns Hopkins University 16-9 in the first round of the NCAA men’s lacrosse tournament Sunday night. The Irish (9-6, 2-2 ACC) took control of the game in the first quarter and staved off a third quarter comeback attempt by the Blue Jays (8-8, 3-2 Big Ten) to come away with the victory. Irish head coach Kevin Corrigan praised the play of his team despite the adverse weather.
“Just really proud of our guys,” Corrigan said. “We played aggressively but smart and disciplined and under control, but at full speed. It was really one of our better efforts of the year in just absolutely miserable conditions. So, great energy on our sidelines. Great energy throughout the game by our guys. [I’m] really, really happy with the way they played today.”
The Irish entered the game off of a rough outing in the ACC championship game against Virginia in which they posted a season-low goal total, losing 10-4. Corrigan, however, said that he wasn’t worried about the offense’s performance coming in.
“Honestly, [we didn’t change anything]. I think that was an anomaly,” Corrigan said. “We played poorly. … This is an exam week for us, so my total focus with our guys offensively was, ‘Let’s just get back to playing, you know? Let’s go out every day and play lacrosse and not overthink it.’ We’re at our best when we do our thinking in the film and do our playing on the field. And I think we did that today and that we didn’t do that against Virginia.”
Johns Hopkins opened up scoring as the Irish defense got caught staring at Blue Jays star freshmen attacker Joey Epstein, who fed a pass to junior attacker Forry Smith cutting right in front of the goal to put them up. Notre Dame answered rapidly, however, as junior midfielder and ACC offensive player of the year Bryan Costabile scored off of an assist from junior attacker Brian Willetts to knot the score up.
It was all Notre Dame from that point on, as the Irish won six-straight faceoffs in the first quarter and scored seven-straight goals spanning the first two periods before Smith scored his second to halt the Irish run. But right after that, senior attacker Ryder Garnsey scored an underhand shot that brought the Irish bench to life.
Garnsey, after sitting out the whole regular season due to academic ineligibility, was finally cleared and, rather than risk an appeal process with the NCAA to play next year, elected to suit up against Hopkins. Garnsey said how much it meant for him to be able to play once more with his team.
“It means everything,” Garnsey said. “You know, I love playing lacrosse so being able to strap it up one more time with my teammates is unbelievable. The last five months I couldn’t ask for more from my teammates. Obviously, I didn’t do anything to get us here, so all credit goes to them. … We’ve got a pretty good group. With me playing a little bit more that means minutes are gonna come from somewhere else, and you didn’t sense anyone complaining or hanging their head that they maybe got a couple minutes stripped from their playing time. They were just happy for me, and I think that was crucial for our team energy throughout the game.”
After taking a 10-2 lead into halftime, Hopkins came out firing in the second half, going on a 4-0 run to cut the lead in half, including a hat-trick goal from Smith, two from Epstein and another from junior attacker Cole Williams. However, sophomore midfielder Morrison Mirer stepped up and scored off a spinning shot with 6:30 left in the third to end the Blue Jays’ run. Mirer led all scorers with four goals on the night, equaling his season total for goals coming into the game. Mirer said that playing in the NCAA tournament actually brought out the best in his game.
“I like playing under the lights, [it] reminds me of high school football,” Mirer said with a smile. “I was pretty excited for it. No school, focus was all here, and shots were going.”
Corrigan praised Mirer on the way he played and said that it wasn’t an anomaly.
“Did Mo have a good night?” Corrigan joked. “Terrific. We see the flashes of Mo throughout the year. I think all of us do in our practices and things, and I know we’ve all felt like it’s a matter of time before we start to see more and more of those on the field on gamedays and today was a great example.”
After Mirer’s goal, Garnsey made an energetic play, jumping from behind the goal, extending his stick and flipping the ball in despite being tackled in midair. Epstein scored again to cut the lead to five, but on the next clear attempt by Hopkins, Costabile intercepted a pass at midfield and passed to Garnsey who juked the keeper in a one-on-one to record a hat trick of his own. Corrigan praised Garnsey for his play tonight and the way he handled his own adversity.
“He adds just another guy, another weapon, and when we have him it gives us a little bit more flexibility with how we can use some other people,” Corrigan said. “As I said to the team after the game, we’ve got a pretty selfless group in there. And for him to be able to come in and get some minutes today — and play meaningful minutes — not every team that could accept that. But they did. They’ve been great teammates to Ryder throughout this and Ryder was a good teammate while he was out and came and worked hard every day. So I was glad to see him have some success.”
In the fourth quarter, Garnsey continued his stellar play, as Hopkins was called for two delayed penalties, including a slashing penalty for striking Garnsey, yet he managed to still feed the ball to Willets right next to the goal for an assist. Junior faceoff specialist Charlie Leonard, who won 17 of 29 faceoffs for the Irish, helped ice the game as he picked up a ground ball on a faceoff and flipped it over the defense to freshman midfielder Quinn McCahon, who picked it up and scored one-on-one against the goalie.
Costabile added one more goal for good measure as the Irish came away with the victory. Notre Dame will now face second-seeded Duke, who defeated No. 20 Richmond 12-11 in the opening round. After avenging their regular season loss to Duke (12-4, 2-2 ACC) in the ACC tournament semifinals, the Irish will have a chance to eliminate the Blue Devils in the quarterfinal round in Hempstead, New York. Corrigan expressed what he feels the team needs to do to come away with the victory.
“Rubbermatch, right? And [they’re] somebody we’re very familiar with, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. They’re a terrific team, and we know it’s gonna be a dog fight. … I’d like to see some of what I saw tonight offensively in terms of our aggressiveness and our ability to make plays. … Defensively, I’d like to see us play with the poise and discipline we played with the second time we played Duke and really did a good job on them. But even at that, our goalie had a big day and that’s gonna be important as well. We need to put a complete game together, there’s no question about it.”
While Corrigan is focused on winning the game, he said that he is happy just to be playing in the tournament.
“They’re one of the better teams in the country. There’s a reason why they’re seeded second in the tournament, and we know we’re gonna need a complete effort,” Corrigan said. “But we’re excited to be moving to the next round. It’s May, you’re excited to be playing. Every single day you get to play is a good day.”
The matchup is scheduled for this Saturday at 2:30 p.m at Lincoln Financial Field.