Feb. 4, 1997
Expectations High For Men's Lacrosse Team
By Bernadette Cafarelli
Consistency. It's been the hall-mark of the Notre Dame men's lacrosse program since head coach Kevin Corrigan took over nine seasons ago.
During his eight-year tenure, the three-time Great Western Lacrosse League coach of the year, has guided the Irish to a 72-39 record (.649) and six NCAA tournament appearances. Lacrosse enthusiasts from the East coast, the hotbed of the game, have taken notice of the Irish program, especially in 1995 after Notre Dame became the first team from the West region to win an NCAA first round game.
Expect nothing less from Corrigan and his squad in '97 as this Irish squad may be his most talented group. Seven starters return from last year's team which finished 11th in the final United States Lacrosse Association (USILA) poll after climbing as high as sixth midway through the season. Corrigan feels the top 10 players he will start comprise the most athletic team in school history.
"The 10 players we put in the field to start the game will be the best 10 players we've ever put on the field," says Corrigan. "This is a very athletic team and one that will be able to play different kinds of games. We'll be able to score enough to play with teams that are more offensive-minded, and once again, we should be very good defensively."
While there is a great deal of experience among the top-line players, this is a relatively youthful team with only two seniors on this year's roster.
The top three scorers return from a year ago as do three players who earned All-America honors following the '96 campaign. Junior midfielder Jimmy Keenan, a USILA honorable mention All-America selection, led the team in scoring with 14 goals and 19 assists.
"Jimmy has a tremendous sense of the game and has great vision on the field," says Corrigan. "He is good in the open field because of his vision; he knows where the ball needs to be."
Sophomore attackman Chris Dusseau was second in the scoring column as he led the Irish in goals (29), which established a new single-season freshman record.
"Chris should have another outstanding season," says Corrigan. "He has people around him who can get him the ball. As long as we have people who can do that, Chris will take care of the rest."
Senior midfielder Will DeRiso also returns after having his best season as he netted 12 goals and had 10 assists. He is a reliable player on the field, demonstrating last season his ability to score goals and get people the ball.
The midfield will also be strengthened by the return of junior Burke Hayes who scored 10 goals a year ago. One of the smartest players on the Irish team, he is a good decision maker and rarely makes a mistake on the field.
Junior Todd Rassas, a third-team All-America honoree, is the mainstay of an Irish defense that loses just one starter. Rassas will be joined by senior Dave Cashen and junior Adam Sargent. Cashen, along with Rassas, started all 13 games in '96, while Sargent returns after sitting out last season with a knee injury.
"Todd and Dave are such great leaders on the field," says Corrigan. "Both are intelligent, hard-nosed players who work very hard and are great communicators on the field."
Anchoring the Irish defense is junior Alex Cade, who was the third Notre Dame player a year ago to earn All-American honors. He led the nation in goals against average (7.62) for the second consecutive year and had a save percentage of .632 that ranked him fifth nationally.
"Alex has shown the past two seasons that he is one of the best goalkeepers in the country," says Corrigan. "He has proven himself in all game situations. Alex really doesn't have a weakness to his game. He gives us a good place to start defensively."
The Irish will once again face a challenging schedule both at home and on the road. Notre Dame opens up the season at Penn State on February 28 and also makes visits to Delaware, Loyola (Md.) and Massachusetts. The five-game home schedule includes visits by Dartmouth (March 22), Hobart (March 29) and Hofstra (April 5).
"We're in a great position to challenge ourselves with our schedule this season," says Corrigan. "It is one that is going to prepare us for the NCAA tournament."