February 5, 1999
Motivation won't be a problem for the 1999 Notre Dame men's lacrosse team. After an uncharacteristic 5-7 campaign in 1998, the Irish saw their streak of six consecutive NCAA tournament appearances snapped, but wins over nationally ranked Penn State and Hofstra did earn the Irish a top 20 finish for the seventh straight year.
This season, 11th-year head coach Kevin Corrigan and his squad are more focused than ever on Notre Dame's return trip to the NCAA tournament as the Irish gun for their eighth appearance in 11 years.
"Unquestionably, we were disappointed with our record last season," Corrigan says. "We had some key injuries and suffered a couple of tough losses that seemed to hurt our confidence. We just never seemed to get in sync."
The focus in '99 will be not be on the the past, only the present and the goals the team has has established for itself this season. Corrigan was pleased with what he saw from his squad during the fall.
"Last season, we lost our focus early on," Corrigan says. But this fall, I noticed a different attitude; the kids practiced played and lifted with a sense of urgency. Our work ethic was great and our players did whatever they needed to get the job done."
Notre Dame returns six starters from last year's team. Among the noteworthy graduation losses: Todd Rassas, a three-time All-American on defense and the 1998 Great Western Lacrosse League Player of the Year; midfielder Jimmy Keenan, the team's leading scorer two of the last three seasons; and goalkeeper Alex Cade, a four-year starter who finished as the second all-time career leader in saves.
Replacing these three individuals won't be an easy task for Corrigan and his staff, but the 11th-year head coach is counting on balance this season. There won't be one particular player who will stand out on offense or defense; instead, a number of individuals are expected to contribute at both ends of the field.
"Our offense understands that we don't have a Jimmy Keenan and our defense understands that we don't have Todd Rassas or Alex Cade back there," Corrigan says. "Schematically we're not going to change that much on offense and defense this season. What we are going to stress to our players, however, is that they must learn to play within themselves. Teamwork will be a critical ingredient to our success this season.
While there are some key losses, there is a stong nucleus of returning players. This is a group that won't tolerate a repeat of last season. The motivation for this year's team is to get Notre Dame back into the top 10.
The attack unit will be a strength with three talented players returning in this area of the field. The team's greatest asset is that a number of different players can contribute, and each is a different type of player who adds a distinct dimension when he is in the game.
Senior co-captain Chris Dusseau, the team's leading goal scorer each of the past three seasons, is the veteran of this group. He has started every game during his three-year career and has amassed 82 goals, which currently ranks him seventh on the all-time goals scoring list.
Sophomore David Ulrich, who earned the starting nod three games into the '98 campaign, also returns. Ulrich was Notre Dame's second leading scorer as year ago behind Keenan with 22 goals and 13 assists.
Fifth-year senior Ned Webster is back after sitting out all of last season with a knee injury he suffered right before the start of the campaign. In 1997, Webster came into his own scoring 13 goals and dishing off 18 assists. Corrigan is looking for him to regain the the form and effectiveness he had two year ago.
"Our attack players are better because everyone is a year older," Corrgian says. "This is a versatile group that can be very effective for us offensively. Ned Webster is back and that is really going to help us. It's going to free David Ulrich and Chris Dusseau up this season. Last year, David had a lot of responsibility placed on him and Chris kind of got lost because he was surrounded by an opposing team's best defenders."
Sophomores Tom Glatzel and and Jon Harvey also are in a better position to contribute this season, while freshman John Flandina is expected to be a factor after playing well in the fall.
In addition to Keenan, the midfield also loses four-year starter Burke Hayes. Both are tough players to replace because of their play-making and scoring abilities. Yet, the return of several experienced players will bring more balance to the midfield.
"We have more clever ballhandlers and guys that can do a variety of things," Corrigan says. "We don't have a lot of players who can beat their man and create a goal, but we do have a lot of guys who can become effective."
Senior Brad Owen, who started all eight games he played in before an injury lsat season, will be one of the key returnees in the midfield. A dominating and physical player, he also may be one of the team's leading scorers. Junior Stedman Oakey moves back into the midfield after spending the '98 season playing at attack. One of squad's most versatile offensive players, he can fill a number of different roles and is a proven goal scorer.
Todd Ulrich, the twin brother of David, became a factor for the Irish midway through last season as he earned starts in the final three games of the season. He was a role player early on off the bench, but once he became comfortable with the offense, it was tough denying him playing time on the field. Senior Revere LaNoue, after missing the '97 campaign while studying abroad, also will figure into the the Irish midfield plans after playing in 12 games a year ago.
Sophmores Steve Bishko and Chris Young are two second-year players who will see considerable playing time this season and could be vying for a starting job.
Freshman Chad DeBolt has caught the eye of Corrigan. He is a hard-nosed player who will help the Irish out defensively in the midfield.
The loss of Rassas and Cade (in goal) presents some pressure for the Irish defensively. They will rely heavily on a senior-laden class with a great deal of experience.
"Defensively we will miss Todd and Alex," Corrigan says, " but we have three seniors who have experience and have been starters at one time or another during their careers. We know our limitations defensively, especially with new goalkeepers. We won't be taking a lot of defensive gambles."
Co-captain David Biddison will be one of the players to anchor the Notre Dame defense. He became a full-time starter for the Irish last season and was one of the team's most consistent players.
Laurence Galli, another senior, has seen considerable playing time each of his three seasons, and started nine of 10 games for the Irish in the spring. Ray Cross, another senior, has made considerable improvement over the past two seasons, and has put himself in position to contend for a starting job.
Senior Steve Sepeta moves to long-stick to lend support defensively. He has figured into the Irish plans each of the last two seasons and earned two starts in the 10 games he played in a year ago. Sophomore Mike Adams will play a bigger role for Notre Dame in '99 and should see increased playing time.
Juniors Kirk Howell and Patrick Darcy will be vying for the starting job in goal. Both are talented players, but relatively untested. Howell played just 41 minutes in the three games he saw action in last spring.
Corrigan and the Irish have historically played a demanding schedule, and the upcoming campaign offers no breaks. The slate will once again get Notre Dame ready for the post seasons. Nine of the 13 games on the schedule are against teams which finished in the top 20 of the final poll.
"This is a tremendous schedule because each game we're going to have to come out ready to play," Corrigan says. "It's what we need to be a top 10 team. It's going to offer us the opportunity week in and week out to prove what type of team we are. We won't be able to live any wins, and we can't get down about any losses."
Notre Dame's attack unit may be one of the most versatile in recent years. The strength for this group is that there will be a number of players who will contribute, and each of those individuals is a different type of player. The versality of this group will make it difficult for opposing teams to prepare for the Irish.
The top three players - Chris Dusseau, Ned Wester and David Ulrich - all have tremendous experience and are proven goal scorers.
Dusseau heads into his final campaign tied for 12th on the career scoring list with 91 points. Last season, he scored 24 goals and dished off two assists. Corrigan believes that his senior is as good as any crease attackman in the country. Dusseau has led the Irish in goals scored in each of his three seasons. Up until last year, his role had not been to create goals, but he added that dimension to his game in '98. Corrigan hopes he can expand that role this season.
Webster's return following a knee injury that sidelined him all of last season will bolster the Irish fortunes in '99. He proved to be a big offensive threat for Notre Dame in '97 scoring 13 goals and dishing off 18 assists. In addition to being the best shooter on the team, he gives the team tremendous leadership on the field. Webster has a tremendous understanding of the game. His ability to score will make man-up situations significantly better than it was a year ago.
Ulrich is an extremely competive player who established two Notre Dame marks in his rookie season - points in a season (34) and assists (18). Ulrich was the team's second leading scorer as he also added 16 goals. Not only is he a proven goal-scorer, but he is one of the team's best playmakers. Ulrich enjoyed tremendous success a year ago as he started more games than any other rookie. He assumed great responsiblity, and that should translate into greater success on the field this season for the second-year player.
Two sophomores expected to have expanded roles this season, and in a better position to contribute this season are Tom Glatzel and Jon Harvey.
Glatzel saw increased playing time a year as he earned three starts in the six games he played. He finished the '98 campaign with three assists, but should help the Irish out offensively in a number of ways this season. Glatzel finishes his shot well and will be part of Notre Dame's man-up offense.
Harvey began to play well toward the end of the season a year ago, and continued his improvement in the fall. He has great speed and quickness when getting to the cage and has the ability to beat defenders. Harvey will be a valuable contributor if he can become more consisttent on the field.
Senior Ben Savage, coming off his best season with eight goals and two assists a year ago, will once again contribute off the bench.
Freshman John Flandina is a talented player and good ballhandler with a keen sense of the game and great vision on the field. Because he finishes his shots well, he will figure heavily into the Irish plans this season.
Freshman Owen Asplundh didn't participate in fall workouts because of shoulder surgery. He has worked hard in the weight room to strengthen his shoulder, but his progress may be limited this season.
Corrigan has a very versatile and skilled midfield unit with tremendous balance. One of the assets of this group is that a different player is expected to step up and contribute every game.
Last season, when Keenan and Dusseau were shut down in the midfield and attack, Notre Dame had a tough time scoring goals. But with the balance among its midfield players, the Irish are going to score goals in a variety of ways from the middle of the field.
Brad Owen has the potential to have a big year for the year because he can be such a dangerous offensive player. As a sophomore, he scored 10 goals, but injuries slowed him in '98 as he missed four games and scored just five goals. Owen has all the natural ability and potential to perform well on the field in each contest, but inconsistency and tentativeness have slowed him from time to time.
Steman Oakey's move back to the midfield will give Notre Dame more flexibility on offense. Oakey has improved all facets of his game, but is more comfortable up top in the offensive midfield. He was the team's fifth leading scorer last season as he netted seven goals and dished off seven assists.
Todd Ulrich has made great strides since the spring and is one of the team's most improved players. He is a threat on the field as both a scorer and playmaker and he has worked hard to become a more effective shooter. Todd started the last three games of the '98 campaign (he played in eight) and scored four goals while dishing off three assists.
Senior Revere LaNoue, who saw action in all 12 games a year ago, become very involved in the Irish offense as he scored four goals and dished off three assists. An extremely athletic player, he has a nose for the goal and strong offensive skills. His all-around versatility should help increase his goal-scoring output this season.
Junior Kevin Higgins once again will primarily handle Notre Dame's faceoff duties and will be on the field in man-down situations. He has continued to get better each season and is a player who understands his role extremely well. Higgins, who is good at both handling and clearing the ball, looks to expand his game this season and become more involved both offensively and defensively.
Sophomores Steve Bishko, Chris Young and Brian Flatley are ready to take greater roles this season. Bishko played in all 12 games a year ago and earned one start. He saw considerable playing time as a defensive midfielder (the first time he had played the position) and is ready to expand his contributions this season both defensively and offensively.
Young played in eight games for the Irish a year ago, and that experience played dividends for him in the fall. He has worked hard improving his skills and becoming a more physical player. Young has few weaknesses, and with his all-around versatility, he should find himself in the mix and seeing considerable playing time this season.
Flatley gives the Irish great depth defensively in the midfield. He has shown good athleticism on the field and has picked up Notre Dame's defensive nuances well over the past year.
The youth movement in the midfield features talented freshman Chad DeBolt, a player who may have the biggest impact than any other rookie. He is as strong and physical as anyone on the team and displays a tremendous work ethic. A defensive midfielder, he also may share the faceoff duties with Higgins.
Devin Ryan, another first-year player, also will challenge for playing time. He has a good understanding of the game, but lacks confidence that should come with increased time on the field and game experience.
Junior Sean Erickson has had an injury-plagued career. He suffered a knee injury in the fall, but has worked hard to put himself in a position where he can contribute. Senior Sean Meehan also has been hampered by injuries. He has the potential to be a good offensive player, but needs to contiue to become more aggressive and learn to finish his scoring opportunities.
Sophomore Andy Santoriello also will try to find a place in the lineup coming off the bench. He has some limitations offensively, but is a very physical player who may also see time at attack.
Junior Keith Parendo and freshmen John Doughtery will see time coming off the bench.
DefenseThe significance of the losses to Todd Rassas and Alex Cade cannot be minimized, but the experience of its three senior returnees will aid the transition.
Seniors David Biddison, Ray Cross and Laurence Galli all hope to cap off their careers with their best seasons ever.
The contributions of Biddison, who started all 12 games a year ago, will be significant. Corrigan is counting on him for his leadership on the field. No player has made greater strides than Biddison over the past year. He has the respect of all of his teammates and is willing to step up and do whatever needs to be done to be done in order to ensure success this season.
Cross figures heavily into the defensive rotation. He has a tremendous attitude and has worked hard to contend for a starting job this season. Cross started two of the 10 games he played in a year ago.
While he may not have reached all the expectations of the Notre Dame coaching staff over the past three seasons, there is no denying that Galli, a nine-game in '98, is as talented as any defensive player this season. He as accepted more of a leadership role this season and seems to have gained considerable maturity. With the lack of experience in goal, Galli's play will become extremely important for the Irish.
Steve Sepeta saw action in all but one game a year ago. He works extremely hard when he is on the field and is extremely effective as a defensive long-stick middie. Sepeta has improved all facets of his game and has the ability to get the Irish going offensively off of the defensive transition.
Junior Steve Fiamingo played in man-down for Notre Dame last year and will once again contribute in a number of different ways. He is another player who has made tremendous strides during his career. In addition to being in during man-down situations, Fiamingo may also handle some of the face-off duties.
Sophomore Michael Adams is a talented player who showed considerable improvement over the course of last season and during the fall. He has become comfortable with the Irish system and will have the opportunity to compete for one of the three starting spots.
Sophomore Dave Rubano and Aaron McCann and freshmen Chris Fallon and Matt Leisen have all worked extremely hard to put themselves in position to contribute this season.
Junior Brian Larimer, a walk-on, is an athletic player who still needs time to understand the system, while working to improve his defensive skills.
Despite their lack of game experience, Corrigan has complete confidence in Kirk Howell and Patrick Darcy. Howell has the ability to make the great save and has worked hard to become more consistent in his ball and stick-handling skills. Darcy has made considerable strides over the past two seasons in all areas of his game. Heading into the start of the campaign, Howell will likely have the edge at getting the starting nod in the season opener.