#13 Notre Dame Faces #14 Penn State in Season Opener
Feb. 27, 1998
NOTRE DAME, Ind. -- The 13th-ranked Notre Dame men's lacrosse team opens up its 1998 campaign on Sunday, March 1 at 12:30 p.m. when the Irish play host to 13th-ranked Penn State in the season opener for both teams.
This is the second straight year and third time in the last four seasons that the Irish and Nittany Lions have faced each other in the season opener. Notre Dame won last season's contest 9-5 in State College, Pa., which avenged a 15-14 setback it suffered in 1995.
This will be the fifth meeting between the two teams and the second-ever visit by Penn State to Notre Dame. The Nittany Lions last played at Notre Dame in 1994 and lost 12-9.
A Look at the Irish: The 1998 Notre Dame squad returns seven starters off of last year's team which finished with a 9-3 record and made its sixth straight NCAA tournament appearance. Sixteen letterwinners return off of last year's team which beat five ranked opponents.
The Irish have four bonafide All-America candidates playing at each of the four spots on the field -- senior TODD RASSAS (Northfield, Ill.) at defense, senior goalkeeper ALEX CADE (North Potomac, Md.), senior JIMMY KEENAN (Floral Park, N.Y.) and junior CHRIS DUSSEAU (Columbus, Ohio) at attack. All four are considered one of the top players nationally at their position.
RASSAS, a two-time All-American and a second-team choice in '97, is the lone returning starter on defense. He was one of the team's top ground ball players a year ago as he finished the campaign with 68. He probably will be joined by junior LAURENCE GALLI (Garden City, N.Y.) who has been a key reserve player off the bench each of the past two seasons. Several players are in contention to be the third starter on defense.
Three-year starter ALEX CADE will once again be the starter in goal for the Irish. An honorable mention All-America selection in 1996, he played all but a total of 57 minutes last season. CADE posted a .576 save percentage, while registering a 8.86 goals against average after leading the nation in that category as a freshman and sophomore.
KEENAN, one of the nation's best midfield players, has started every game each of the past two seasons and earned starts in half the games during his rookie season. The Irish return all three starters off of last year's midfield unit. KEENAN has ranked in the top two in scoring each of the past two campaigns. Last year he finished with 12 goals and a team-high 28 assists for 40 points. BURKE HAYES (Chevy Chase, Md.), who has been a starter during both the '96 and '97 campaigns, is coming off his best season as he scored 23 goals (second best on the team) and dished off three assists (26 points).
The third returning starter in the midfield is junior BRAD OWEN (Amherst, N.H.). After playing in only two games as a freshman, OWEN was a 12-game starter for the Irish in his second season as he finished the campaign with 10 goals.
At attack, Notre Dame loses one player and returns two starters, DUSSEAU and senior NED WEBSTER (Baltimore, Md.). DUSSEAU, who has started all 25 games and been the team's leading goal scorer each of the past two seasons, has 58 career goals. After sitting out the '96 season to concentrate on academics and only playing in four games as a freshman in 1995, WEBSTER was a starter in all 12 contests and was one of the team's leading scorers with 13 goals and 18 assists (31 points). Sophomore STEDMAN OAKEY (Charlottesville, Va.) will be in the mix at the third starting spot. He had eight goals and dished off two assists last season, while seeing action in all 12 contests.
Head Coach Kevin Corrigan: KEVIN CORRIGAN begins his 10th season at the Notre Dame helm and 12th at the collegiate level. During his tenure, the three-time Great Western Lacrosse League coach of the year has guided Notre Dame to an 81-42 record (.659) and seven NCAA tournament appearances, including six straight. Under CORRIGAN in 1995, Notre Dame won its first-ever NCAA tournament game which propelled the Irish into the quarterfinals. CORRIGAN has led Notre Dame to berths in the NCAAs seven of the last eight seasons.
The Irish have won 10-plus games three of the past six seasons, including a school record 11 wins in '93.
Prior to taking over as head coach of the Irish in 1989, he was head coach at Randolph-Macon for two seasons (1985 and 1986). While at Randolph-Macon, he compiled a 10-15 record (.400). His overall coaching ledger in 10-plus seasons as a head coach is 91-57 (.615).
Series Record vs. Penn State: The series between the two teams is tied at 2-2. This is the second consecutive season the two schools have played each other and the third time in the last five years. The Irish have won two of the last three meetings, including last year's 9-5 victory at State College, Pa. This is the second time the Nittany Lions have played at Notre Dame. In their only visit to Notre Dame (1989), they dropped a 12-9 decision. CORRIGAN is 2-2 all-time versus Penn State.
No Time For a Letdown: In recent years, the Irish have played a tough schedule, and in 1998, that trend continues as nine of their 12 opponents are ranked in Face-Off Lacrosse Magazine's Preseason Top 30. Five of the teams are ranked in the Top 15 -- Loyola (#5), Georgetown (#8), Massachusetts (#11), Hofstra(#12) and Penn State (#14). Notre Dame was 5-3 versus ranked foes last season.
The Captains: Seniors ALEX CADE, BURKE HAYES, JIMMY KEENAN and TODD RASSAS will serve as the four Irish captains this season. CADE and KEENAN also were captains in the junior year.
Home Sweet Home: For the third time in four campaigns last season, the Irish finished with a perfect 6-0 home record. Notre Dame was an uncharacteristic 2-3 at home in '96 which marked the most losses ever by a Notre Dame lacrosse team since the program's inception in 1981.
The Irish were 10-0 at home during the 1994 and 1995 campaigns. Over the past four years, Notre Dame is 24-4 (.857) at home.
Elite Company: Notre Dame's sixth straight appearance in the '97 NCAA tournament put the Irish in rather elite company. Only five other schools in last year's NCAA field -- Johns Hopkins, Loyola, Maryland, Princeton and Syracuse -- have been part of the last six NCAA tournaments. Notre Dame's first round win over Duke in '95 marked the first-ever win for a Midwest team in the NCAA championships.
Seeing Double: Freshmen DAVE and TODD ULRICH (Baltimore, Md.), are the first twin brothers to play on the Notre Dame men's lacrosse team. Dave plays at attack, while Todd is in the midfield. They are one of four Irish players who played at Boys' Latin in Baltimore -- the other two are NED WEBTER and freshman TOM GLATZEL (Ellicott City, Md.).
Family Ties: Two members of this year's Irish lacrosse team have close connections to the program. Sophomore BRIAN ERICKSON (Wilton, Conn.) and freshman CONNOR PETT (Ellicott City, Md.) have had brothers who have played for head coach Kevin Corrigan. ERICKSON's brother Brian (1993-96) was a four-year letterwinner, while PETT's brother Jason is a '95 graduate. Both Brian and Jason played on the '95 squad which won the school's first-ever NCAA tournament game by defeating Duke in the first round and advancing to the quarterfinals.
The Wilton Connection: The Notre Dame lacrosse team always has had strong connections with Wilton, Conn., and Wilton High School. This season is no different with six Wilton graduates on the Notre Dame roster -- MIKE ADAMS, RAY CROSS, SEAN ERICKSON, KEVIN HIGGINS, MIKE PFEFFER and MIKE SHULOF.
Finlay Joins Irish Coaching Staff: JIM FINLAY, who spent three seasons as an assistant at Springfield College, is in his first year on the Notre Dame coaching staff and joins second-year assistant KEVIN ANDERSON on head coach KEVIN CORRIGAN'S staff. FINLAY, a member of Gettysburg College's lacrosse from 1990-92, will work primarily with the Irish defensemen.
Irish in Season Openers: Since becoming a varsity sport in 1981, Notre Dame is 12-5 all-time in its season openers, while under CORRIGAN, the Irish have produced a 6-3 record.
Familiar Foes: Notre Dame will play nine teams it faced on its 1997 schedule. CORRIGAN's squad posted a 7-3 record against those teams, which included two matchups with Loyola (one during the regular season and one in the first round of the NCAA tournament. The three teams who were not on the Irish slate a year ago are Denver, Georgetown and Rutgers.
Travelin' Men: Notre Dame's 12-game slate includes seven road contests. Following their matchup with Penn State, the Irish will be on the road for three straight games and four times in their next five outings. Notre Dame travels to Colorado next where they are scheduled to face Air Force on March 7 and Denver on March 8. The Irish will begin and finish the 1997 campaign at home as they host Hofstra in the regular-season finale on May 2.
Irish in the '97 National Statistics: JIMMY KEENAN finished the '97campaign ninth nationally in assists with 2.33 per game, while WILL DERISO, who graduated last season, was 15th in that category. ALEX CADE was seventh in goals against average (8.86 per game) and 19th in save percentage (.576). As a team, the Irish were eighth nationally in scoring defense (8.92 per game) and tied for fifth in winning percentage.
IRISH LACROSSE NOTES OF THE WEEK