Following Flynt - Irish Laxers Prep for 2012 Campaign

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@byrneirish First practice at Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando.

Fighting Irish Digital Media intern Josh Flynt ('11) continues to provide the inside scoop on the Notre Dame athletic programs. He recently sat down with men's lacrosse coach Kevin Corrigan to talk about the upcoming season and the team's trip to Florida.

Though it might not feel like it on campus, it's almost springtime - at least if you look at Notre Dame's upcoming sports schedule. With baseball and softball set to begin in three weeks in Florida and California, respectively, the men's lacrosse team kicks off its season this weekend with a trip to Orlando. The Irish will participate in the 2012 Champion Challenge at ESPN's Wide World of Sports Complex where they will play a pair of exhibition games against Jacksonville and the U.S. National Team.

The Orlando weather report looks good, with temperatures in the 70's this weekend, but don't be fooled into thinking Notre Dame has headed south for anything but business. "This is a 100% work trip. We're going to practice twice per day on Friday and Saturday. We're going to scrimmage two times and we're going to get a lot of good concentrated work, which I think is exactly what we need at this point in the season," head coach Kevin Corrigan says.

That being said, the Irish are less concerned with the outcome and more focused on preparing for Feb. 18 and their season opener against #2 Duke, the team that has ended their postseason run in each of the past two years - overtime of the 2010 national championship, and more recently, in last season's quarterfinals.

"We're still at the stage where we're just trying to get better. That's all we're trying to do. What I'm concerned about right now is the quality of the work that we do and not about any results that we get on a day-to-day basis," Corrigan says.

Looking ahead to the season for his ninth-ranked Irish squad, Corrigan keeps it simple. "We don't set goals. Because to me, I guess I just work backwards off the premise that there's never been a game that I ever played in that the object wasn't to win. So, I don't know why you need goals if every time you play, you're doing everything you can conceivably do to win."

Instead, the Irish are focused on making each day as productive as possible, recognizing that wins, conference titles and championships are the outcome of focusing on the process, not on the results.

"To me, the only goal that I have is for us to work every day with a sense of purpose and urgency to become the best team that we can be."

Just two weeks into preseason play, Coach Corrigan plans to use these scrimmages to focus on the little things that will help prepare the squad for regular season play. "We have to figure out who the best guys are to put on the wings on our face-offs. We have to figure out the most effective grouping of our midfielders. We've got a bunch of good defensive midfielders and we've got to figure out how most effectively we can use them in game situations," he says.

When the Irish play on Saturday, they may recognize a familiar face in goal, as former All-America goalie Scott Rodgers ('10) will be suiting up for the U.S. National Team for the second consecutive year. "It makes it fun and certainly challenging for our guys. We all know how good Scott is, but I think we both had fun last year," Corrigan says.

"Getting on each other, and pushing each other and challenging each other. It's not a lot different than being teammates, when you're playing kind of what they might call a 'friendly' in soccer. It's a competitive game, but there's nothing at stake, so I think our guys will enjoy being down there with Scott."

While Rodgers' lacrosse career has continued even after graduating from Notre Dame, several other Irish laxers may also get a chance to continue playing. Seven former players were selected in December's Major League Lacrosse Supplemental Draft and senior defenseman Kevin Randall was picked by the Charlotte Hounds in the seventh round of this month's MLL Collegiate Draft.

Although Coach Corrigan and his staff are happy to see their former players getting a chance to continue their lacrosse careers after college, it's not something they spend much time focused on.

"We're concerned with their experience that they're having here at Notre Dame. I'm glad to see them get the respect that they deserve, when it comes to playing at the next level or being selected to play at the next level," he says.

The 2012 season will be a unique one for Corrigan, as his son, Will, a midfielder and graduate of Saint Joseph's High School, is among the 10 freshmen on the team.

"Will and I have a great relationship and it's only growing through this experience...He's my son. I love him. I love being with him and I love having him as part of our team. He and I have always kind of had a relationship around the game because he grew up watching our team as a little kid, and certainly there's an emotional involvement with the team when you're the son of a coach," Corrigan says.

After the Orlando trip, the Irish will have one more exhibition contest on Feb. 5 against Robert Morris before opening the season at 1 pm ET on Feb. 18 vs. Duke in a nationally televised game on ESPNU.

Playing against a team of Duke's caliber is a challenge that Corrigan and his team look forward to, as they do each season. "First of all, there's nothing more important in terms of achieving the highest level you can reach as a team, than good competition," he says.

"So playing a team like that is only going to help us. And when it comes to getting in the tournament at the end of the year and getting a seeding in the tournament, playing top teams is an essential thing."

The Irish regularly play a difficult schedule, and Corrigan says that if he would schedule all of his games against the best teams in the country, if it were possible.

"Logistically it doesn't always work out that way with league obligations and everything else, but we're not afraid of that challenge. We actually look forward to that and are building on that."

Now in his 24th season in South Bend, Corrigan never envisioned spending more than two decades with the Irish. A Charlottesville, Va. native, Corrigan stayed close to home and played college lacrosse at the University of Virginia. Later, he returned to UVA and worked as an assistant coach for two seasons under Jim "Ace" Adams. Between 24 years in Charlottesville and 24 at Notre Dame, Corrigan, 53, laughed at the fact that he has spent most of his life in two places. Still, he couldn't imagine a better opportunity than the one he has here at Notre Dame.

"It's been a terrific place to coach. It's a great place to live and raise a family. I've been really fortunate to be around the great people that Notre Dame attracts," he says. "And the great kids that I've had an opportunity to coach make it awfully hard when you look at going somewhere else. You look and you go, 'Why would I want to?' For me personally, I can't imagine I could have ended up in a better place for me over the last 24 years."

- Josh Flynt ('11)

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