‘We have to treat our first game like it’s the national championship’: Irish dream big for 2023 season
Nate Moller | Wednesday, February 8, 2023
There are lofty expectations for the Notre Dame men’s lacrosse team ahead of the 2023 season. The Irish enter the campaign ranked No. 5 in the USILA Preseason Poll. And head coach Kevin Corrigan has enjoyed the exciting buildup to the first game of the season.
“There is nothing more exciting than getting ready for that first game. I love the preseason and being here for this month where it’s just us and we are figuring ourselves out. Guys are competing like a devil trying to get on the field, and we are trying to figure out the pieces we have and what are the pieces we need to find,” Corrigan said.
Corrigan knows his team has talent everywhere, but he said he hopes his team will round into form as the season progresses.
“One thing we know is we have some of everything,” Corrigan said. “I think our depth in some of those areas is something we need to work on. Right now we feel good about how at every position we have playmakers.”
The Irish have plenty of talent on offense, and Corrigan said he hopes that no single player has to do more than his fair share.
“We have a lot of good players, and I think the key for us is to make sure that nobody feels like they need to do more than their share. Everybody needs to trust the process,” Corrigan said. “I think the real key for us is to play well together because we have six guys on that end of the field at any minute that can score.”
Last year, the Irish were left out of the NCAA tournament despite winning their final six games of the season, much to the surprise of their fanbase. Despite the obvious disappointment, Corrigan said he has used last year as motivation for this year’s team.
“We didn’t have anybody to cry to. I think all of us collectively took it as a challenge as we can’t put ourselves in that situation and be vulnerable,” Corrigan said. “It was a bad decision, but we allowed ourselves to be in a situation where a bad decision could affect us.”
Corrigan said that he isn’t dwelling on last year, and he has emphasized moving forward with his team this season.
“Every year starts new,” Corrigan said. “We come in and we rebuild it for this year’s team. That’s our focus. We have not talked about last year since that first preseason meeting that we had. We haven’t mentioned it since then and I don’t really intend to until after we win the championship.”
Senior goalie Liam Entenmann also shared his disappointment with the way last season ended.
“It definitely stung. I’d be lying if I said it didn’t sting,” Entenmann said. “It was a heartbreaking ending to an incredible run. That 6-0 run was probably one of the most special things I have been a part of on or off the field.”
Entenmann and the Irish now understand the importance of every game more than ever – even in non-conference play.
“We have to treat our first game like it’s the national championship,” Entenmann said. “Because if we drop a few games like we did at the beginning of last year, we aren’t going to have that chance. We might as well treat every game like it’s the national championship.”
And with the Irish defense looking a bit different this year, Corrigan is especially excited to have a quality veteran like Entenmann in the cage.
“When you do have some new faces down there, it’s nice to have an old hand in the cage. And not just an old hand, but a guy that’s playing as well as we have had anybody play. He is playing so well in the preseason,” Corrigan said. “He’s a guy that’s improved every year.”
Corrigan praised Entenmann’s ability to compete and improve throughout his career.
“He’s so competitive with himself. He hates to give up a goal at any time. He has just been great, and he has been better every year,” Corrigan said.
Corrigan mentioned senior defender Marco Napolitano as a player that has stepped up for the Irish defensively.
“He’s playing better than he’s ever played,” Corrigan said. “He’s been really good, and he’s going to make us better along with the new guys.”
The Irish will have a tough non-conference schedule against preseason No. 1 Maryland, No. 3 Georgetown and No. 11 Ohio State. Last year the Irish lost to all three of them. And Corrigan knows that his team can’t do that again this season.
“We had a few injuries going into the early part of last season, and it took us a little while to find our stride,” Corrigan said. “We know we can’t do that this year. I think the guys understand that we have to be ready to play and win early. More than anything else, this is a great opportunity to play a schedule like ours. Who doesn’t love playing the top teams in the country week after week.”
Despite playing all three teams tough last year, the Irish came up short in part because of the experience of the opposing team’s faceoff taker. Corrigan is confident in sophomore Will Lynch, who has improved immensely since last season.
“We played those guys all well last year. We just didn’t win,” Corrigan said. “We had some challenges with a young faceoff guy who came right into it by playing against three of the best faceoff guys in the country. [Will has] grown up a ton since then and is really playing well.”
Entenmann said he is excited about the bond his team has across the board.
“The thing that excites me the most is how much of a group we are off the field,” Entenmann said. “The reason I’m so excited about that is that it translates to on the field as far as camaraderie, positive reinforcement, constructive criticism when needed and overall encouragement. I think this is overall a testament to how close we are as a group of people and group of friends.”
Although Entenmann is preseason All-ACC, he says his focus is squarely on the team’s success.
“I know it sounds really cliche but I really try not to pay attention to that preseason stuff,” Entenmann said. “They’re preseason rankings for a reason. My goal is to do what I can do to help the team overall, and I don’t really care if that results in All-ACC or All-American or whatever it may be. The thing that is most important to me is becoming the best we can be every day, and hopefully that results in a national championship. That’s obviously what we are working towards.”