Feb. 15, 2000
Somewhat cautious and guarded at times, Notre Dame head coach Kevin Corrigan can hide his optimism all he wants, but deep-down the 11th-year mentor knows the potential of his 2000 Irish men's lacrosse team, which returns six starters from last year's squad that finished with an 8-6 record and made their seventh NCAA tournament appearance in the last eight years.
Sure Corrigan and his coaching staff have a few things they can fret about, but the reality of it all is that this Notre Dame team possesses considerable talent and skill that could carry the Irish a long way this season. A team and coach normally characterized for their defensive prowess and intensity, offense will be the jump-start to this Notre Dame squad, especially early on.
Despite the loss of Chris Dusseau (who finished his career second on the all-time goal-scoring and points list) at attack, the offensive foundation is there with four of the team's top five scorers from a year ago returning. This is a well-balanced scoring contingent that can produce a different leading goal-scorer each game. The number of weapons the Irish possess in their scoring arsenal will cause problems for Notre Dame's opponents.
"It will be different without Chris Dusseau in the lineup," Corrigan says. "We're going to miss the consistency with which he scored goals and the certain number he produced. Not having Chris on the field will make us a much more different to team to defend. The scoring will very balanced this year which will cause matchup problems for our opponents.
Talent and experience is at the core of Notre Dame's attack and midfield units. This is one of the most versatile groups of players Corrigan has had in terms of scoring goals. Notre Dame will challenge teams offensively because of the number of options it has.
The potential offensively is unlimited considering the quality of depth and experience returning. The key for Corrigan's squad is to combine good decision making with good play making.
"We have the potential to be a strong offensive team this season," Corrigan says. "The key will be combining good play making with good decision making. We will be a very effective team if we can do this."
Notre Dame's attack unit will be spearheaded with the return of the juniors David Ulrich and Tom Glatzel. Both started all 14 games a games a year ago and finished one-two in the scoring column. Ulrich, who was a Great Western Lacrosse League all-conference selection a year ago and finished second in the scoring column following his freshman campaign, led the Irish with 17 goals and a team-leading 31 assists for 48 points. Glatzel finished with 26 goals and 15 assists for 41 points. He and Ulrich are expected to be among the team scoring leaders again this season.
"David and Tom are two of the best attackmen at the collegiate level," Corrigan says. "They are veterans with a great deal of game experience who have contributed in a number of ways in their first two seasons. They showed great maturity in many different areas a year ago, and I expect both of them to take on more of a leadership role for us this year."
Ulrich and Glatzel will not be the only two players to contribute offensively at attack. Junior Jon Harvey, one of the most improved players since the 1999 campaign, has certainly grown into the role he has on the team. He is ready to step in and become more of an active member of the Irish attack unit in terms of playing time and scoring.
The midfield unit remains fairly intact with the loss of just one starter, Brad Owen, who concluded his career with 16 goals and three assists a year ago. Similar to the Irish attack, the midfield unit returns two experienced junior starters in Todd Ulrich, the twin brother of David, and Steve Bishko. Todd was one of team's most improved and consistent players last season as he had 13 goals and 12 assists while starting 14 games. Bishko was a starter in the lineup for all but one game as he scored 16 goals and dished off eight assists. Corrigan expects both to become even more involved offensively during the upcoming campaign.
"Todd and Steve are going to be real keys for us this season," Corrigan says. "Todd has the ability to create as well as score goals out of the midfield area, while Steve is already a proven big-game goal scorer for us."
Senior Kevin Higgins, who has been the player primarily responsible for handling all of Notre Dame's faceoff duties the past two years, once again will contribute in a variety of ways. His poise, experience and leadership and the role that he plays on this team are things that cannot be underestimated.
"Kevin contributes so much to our middle unit in as both a player and leader," Corrigan says, "His experience and poise on the field gives us a tremendous advantage because he does so many things so well."
There is potential in the midfield to get contributions from many different people. Senior midfielder Stedman Oakey played in all 14 games, but has experience as a starter. He and junior Chris Young and sophomores Chad DeBolt, Devin Ryan and John Flandina are vying for a starting spot in the midfield. Oakey is a crafty offensive-minded player with 21 goals and 12 assists to his credit during his career. DeBolt, Young and Flandina are players with considerable talent who Corrigan believes have tremendous futures at Notre Dame.
Flandina split time at attack and in the midfield, but will be used primarily as a middie this season. He, along with DeBolt, were the only two rookies to play in all 14 games in '99. Flandina showed signs of being a very effective offensive player after scoring six goals and dishing off four assists a year ago.
Early on, Corrigan is going to rely heavily on his offense because of the inexperience of his defense and the graduation losses of David Biddison and Laurence Galli. The lone returning starter on defense is junior Mike Adams who was a part-time starter a year ago along with Ray Cross, another player who the Irish lost to graduation.
"Certainly our defense is going to be the biggest question mark for us," Corrigan says. "We have some freshman who are going to have an impact on this team for us this year, but until they perform at a consistent level and get game experience, there are going to be some uncertainties early in the season."
Corrigan believes that his defense has the potential to be more athletic and are better ballhandlers because of the different skills that they have . Their focus will be on utilizing those fundamental skills at a consistent level and making good decisions.
After three years of coming off the bench senior Steve Fiamingo looks for his chance to become a starter on defense. Several talented underclassmen and freshmen also will challenge for a starting spot on defense. By season's end, a number of individuals could set into the fold and be contributing in a variety of ways.
Although the Irish will be young defensively, the defense will be helped out by the return of senior goalkeeper Kirk Howell. In his first year as a starter, Howell turned in some stellar goalkeeping performances. Playing all but 16 minutes the entire season, he posted a .576 save percentage and 8.58 goals against average.
"Kirk had some outstanding games for us a year ago," Corrigan says. "By the end of last year, he was playing with a great deal of confidence and was coming up with some big saves for us in key situations. With our youth on defense, Kirk's leadership and experience is going to be critical for us early on."
The goal for Corrigan and his squad once again will be a return trip to the NCAA tournament. After missing out on the NCAAs in 1998, the Irish showed character and resiliency in getting back there in '99.
"Last season was a real character-builder for us," Corrigan says. "Our players came back and worked very hard in order to make sure that got back to the NCAAs. This year's team has that same kind of character and now the experience to go with it."
Notre Dame will field one of its deepest and most talented attack units in school history which highlights two of the nation's top players in David Ulrich and Tom Glatzel. The junior duo finished one-two in scoring a year ago and look to be even more productive offensively this season.
Ulrich has distinguished himself as a player with no real weaknesses in his game because he does so many things well. He has continued to get better with each season and imporved
"David has been so successful because he has worked to improve on a lot of the little things," Corrigan says. "He has worked hard to become a better shooter, creator and finisher. David will benefit from having good people around him. The ball should end up in his stick in better scoring situations."
Glatzel's scoring output of a year ago (26 goals and 15 assists for 41 points) was phenomenal considering he netted just two goals and dished off one assist in 1998. A left-handed finisher, he will be Notre Dame's biggest beneficiary of Notre Dame's balanced offensive attack because of his ability to do a little bit of everything.
"Like we did a year ago," Corrigan says, "we're going to have to create scoring opportunities for Tom." He is a very versatile and intelligent player who plays with a great deal of confidence."
Junior Jon Harvey's role within the offense will expand this season. Corrigan has brought him along slowly the past two years, but expects him to have a greater offensive role on this team in 2000. Harvey will look to improve his upon his one goal and two assists of a year ago and hopes to take advantage of his ability to beat his defender and create plays.
"Jon can have a real impact on this team, " Corrigan says. "He has gotten better every year and has become a more consistent player in all facets of his game. We're counting a Jon's versatility and ability to score goals."
Sophomore Owen Asplundh and senior Keith Parendo will play important roles on this team. Asplundh played in just two games last season, but Corrigan is looking for him to play a bigger role this season. He benefited greatly from last year's experience and workouts in the fall. Keith Parendo, a walk-on a year ago, is a valuable member because of his work ethic He has developed into a good shooter and finisher and has shown the ability to make other players around him better.
The addition of freshmen Mike Richtsmeier and David Bone add depth to the Irsh attack. With the experience of the returning players, Corrigan has the luxury of not rushing their progress. Richtsmeier is a big, strong and physical player who just needs to develop his confidence. He has all the tools, skills and abilities to be an outstanding player. Bone may need more time before he becomes a factor in the lineup, but he has already shown the desire and work ethic to improve on every facet of his game.
Similar to the Irish attack, Corrigan believes that this may be one of his best midfield units with several different players contributing both offensively and defensively with the potential of getting contributions from a number of different players and areas on the field.
Juniors Todd Ulrich and Steve Bishko were among the top scorers in '99 (finishing fourth and fifth, respectively, in the scoring column) and should both keep pace with their scoring output of a year ago. Both earned starting jobs a year ago and accounted for much of the offensive production out of the Irish midfield.
Ulrich is a steady, consistent performer who has added something new to his game every year. He is an extremely focused competitor with a great sense and understanding of what Corrigan is trying to accomplish on offense.
"Todd's hard work has paid off," Corrigan says," as he continues to be one of our most improved players. "He is an excellent midfielder with desire to be the best player he can be. Todd continues to push himself to become one of our top players on the field. He is a great competitor with a whole lot of heart and desire."
Bishko is ready to emerge as an all-around player. He has proven offensive and defensive skills in the midfield, but showed last season that he can be a big-goal scorer.
"Steve performs at such a high level," Corrigan says, "that it is difficult for people to shut him down. He showed that he can get big goals in key situations. He is ready to showcase his potential this season."
While not a scorer, but more of a defensive middie, senior Kevin Higgins, one of four captains, plays a key role, in addition to the team leader in ground balls and faceoffs. Higgins is a scrappy defensive player who can create a lot of opportunities when he has the ball. Primarily a short-stick middie, he has gotten more playing time over the last two seasons than any other midfield player.
"Kevin has become a very aggressive and confident player with the ball," Corrigan says. "He is an excellent and experienced defensive player. The strength of his game is creating defensive possessions into offensive opportunities."
Senior Stedman Oakey was a starter for the Irish in 1998, but was very effective a year ago coming off the bench. He will a key player on one of Notre Dame's top two midfield units. He has developed a game which includes being both a goal scorer and creator. Last year, Oakey had six goals and three assists while played in all 14 games.
"Stedman is another player who has gotten better with each season," Corrigan says. "He has matured in every way possible and will be an important leader for us this season in the midfield as he has developed the ability to score and create goals."
Junior Chris Young , who scored two goals and dished off an assist last season, will benefit from the playing time he has gotten over the past two seasons. With his experience and maturity, he should play a more prominent role for the Irish this season. Young has become a more confident and aggressive player on the field with the ability to contribute both offensively and defensively.
"Chris has learned to become more of an attacking player with the ball," Corrigan says. "His aggressive style helps create different offensive and defensive opportunities in the midfield for the Irish.
The depth of the bolstered by second-year players Chad DeBolt, John Flandina and Devin Ryan. Each will claim their own niche in the lineup this season, and all three are expected to make major contributions.
DeBolt and Flandina were the only first-year players a year ago who saw action in all 14 contests. DeBolt's strength is as a defensive player, while Flandina provides the Irish with another offensive threat.
DeBolt, who was football walk-on in the fall, has emerged into a very confident player. His aggressive style of play fits in well with Corrigan's defensive philosophy. Along with Higgins, he'll handle some of the faceoff duties.
"Playing football this fall gave Chad a great deal of confidence that I'm not sure he would have right now if it wasn't for the experiences he had," Corrigan says. "The confidence he now has should help him tremendously and I expect him to be a much better player."
Flandina played with both of Notre Dame's attack and midfield units a year ago, but will see time only in as a midfielder this season. He works extremely hard at both ends of the field and offers a lot of flexibility because he plays so well without the ball. Flandina, who was the leading freshman goal scorer with six goals and four assists (10 points) a year ago, handles the ball well against the long-stick defenders.
"John will have a bigger role for us this year because he is going to be able to concentrate on just playing one position," Corrigan says. "His game is best suited for the midfield. He plays well without the ball and dodges well around the goal area."
Ryan, another surprise player from the fall, has worked himself into position to see more playing time this season. He has worked hard in the offseason to become a more physical and stronger midfield player.
Juniors Andy Santoriello and Brian Flatley should have greater roles this season. Their hard work to increase their physical strength should pay off this season as both are expected to see increased playing time in defensive situations.
"Andy and Brian have done whatever we have asked of them to make themselves into better players," Corrigan says. "They have worked extremely hard and deserve the opportunity to have more of a role on this team."
Newcomers to the midfield include junior transfer Kevin Dugan and freshmen Kurt MacLaurin and Travis Wells. Dugan has been diligent, especially during the offseason, in improving all aspects of his game so that he can contribute this season.
MacLaurin bring great versatility to the midfield. One of the team's best one-on-one defensive players, he has tremendous speed which will make him a very dangerous player to go up against.
Wells is a strong, athletic player who can help the team out as a regular or defensive middie. He is expected to push for playing time on the field.
Untested best describes the '99 Irish defensive unit which lost two starters and one part-time starter. This is the one area of the field where Notre Dame lacks experience and depth.
Junior Mike Adams is the lone returning starter on defense as he made seven starts in the 14 games he played. Adams' role on the team will be significant this season as he looks to become more of a leader on the field. One of the team's most talented defensive players, he has good size and quickness and handles the ball extremely well. His experience and leadership will be crucial until the defense can find its identity.
"We're going to need Mike to step into a leadership role right away because of our inexperience on defense," Corrigan says. "I'm going to challenge him from the start. He is one of our most talented defensive players, I am confident that he is ready to do whatever we ask of him."
Senior Steve Fiamingo will get his chance at a starting berth in the lineup. No fourth-year player has worked harder than Fiamingo to be a starter, and Corrigan expects that his senior captain will be in position to earn that job once the season begins.
"Steve is one of best communicators on defense," Corrigan says. "Considering our inexperience on defense, that could be a great asset for us early on in the season. Steve is an extremely mature individual and someone who know and understands the levels of our expectations."
After missing last season studying abroad Italy, senior Mike Pfeffer rejoins the Irish. He may need some time to work his way back into the lineup, but his experience of playing in 14 games his first two seasons will be beneficial. Corrigan expects that he will become an important part of the Irish defense.
Another senior looking to increase his playing time is senior Dave Rubano. Corrigan was impressed with his showing at the fall tournament in October as he showed what he capable of doing. A player with a great attitude and work ethic, he just needs to show more consistency if he wants to beat out others for playing time.
Sophomores A.J.. Wright, Matt Leisen and Chris Fallon could serve important roles on this years team. Both have made the necessary strides and improvement to earn themselves more playing time. Wright is a talented player who will be given the chance to prove himself on the field. Leisen, bigger and stronger than he was a year ago, is determined to find spot in the lineup. Fallon has a versatile all-around game that will benefit the Irish in certain defensive situations.
The five freshmen - Mike Fries, Timothy Brooks-Hartnett, Joe Nejman, Eric Simon and John Souch - are a very talented group of players who add depth to the defense. Souch impressed the coaches in the fall with his natural ability and skills and may be the one rookie on defense who contributes early on.
The big question mark a year ago was in goal, but senior captain Kirk Howell left no doubt after his performance in '99 that this will be a strength for the Irish this season. He showed great poise in stepping into the starting job and surprised many by how quickly he made the transition. Howell is a tough goalie to score on and has the penchant for making the big stop. He clears the ball well which aids the Notre Dame transition game.
Howell's numbers were impressive a year ago as he made 160 saves and allowed 118 goals in 14 games. He had a .576 save percentage and had an 8.58 goals against average.
"Kirk Howell is a talented goalie who plays with a great deal of poise under pressure," Corrrigan says. "With the promise he showed last season, it's not going to surprise me if he becomes an All-American. Our team has confidence in Kirk. It's a good feeling to know that we can build our defense around him."
Senior captain Patrick Darcy will once again be the backup to Howell in goal. He is one of the hardest working players on the team and can step replace Howell at any time.
"You can't ask for a better situation than having Darcy as a backup to Kirk," Corrigan says. "It's a testament to the way our players feel about him and how he works that our players voted him captain. He works as hard as anyone on our team."
Freshman Nick Antol gives Notre Dame a third option in goal. He is very athletic goalkeeper outside of the goal and is an excellent one-on-one stopper. With Howell and Darcy ahead of him, it may be difficult for him to see playing time this season.