Feb. 19, 2017
By John Heisler
Win a season opener for the 15th consecutive season? Check.
Respond to a tight, one-goal halftime margin with seven consecutive goals in a 7:45 span of the third period? Check.
Play defense well enough to outscore Georgetown 10-1 on a combined basis in the first and third periods? Check.
Win the day in the faceoff, turnover and groundball columns? Check.
Claim a sixth consecutive series win against the Hoyas? Check.
The fourth-ranked Notre Dame men's lacrosse team did all that Saturday afternoon in checking the boxes at the Ford Center--the Dallas Cowboys' sparkling new practice facility--in defeating Georgetown 16-10.
The Irish victory in the Patriot Cup was a benefit for the Headstrong Foundation that was created by Nick Colleluori, a Hofstra University lacrosse player, to raise awareness for blood cancer and help others afflicted by the disease. Nick was diagnosed with large B-cell non-Hodgkin lymphoma, a blood cancer affecting the lymphatic system. He passed away in 2006, but since then the Headstrong Foundation has raised more than $5 million to help find a cure for the disease that took his life.
"First game, right? Nervous? Excited? Anxious? I am, too, 29 years later--that feeling doesn't change," Irish coach Kevin Corrigan reassured his players before the opening faceoff.
"Here's how you handle it -- you concentrate on the all-the-time things. You narrow your focus down to this: `What do I have to do?' All those little things we talk about--all those all-the-time things--we can be great at those today. It's a first game, we'll make some mistakes. Nobody plays a perfect first game. Each guy here has his things to worry about."
That approach resulted in a 3-0 advantage after the first period in which the Hoyas did not manage a shot on goal. Georgetown notched two scores in the final 1:07 of the second period to contain the Irish lead to 6-5 at intermission. But there was no panic for an Irish team that had turned the ball over only twice and outshot Georgetown 24-14 in the first half.
"Offensively I can't think of a bad possession we've had yet, right?" Corrigan asked his squad. "Pretty much every possession we're getting good opportunities. Keep being poised with your shooting. We're getting good looks every time. Be selective enough to get the great shot."
The third period amounted to an Irish blitzkrieg. Seven goals in those 15 minutes marked more than in any period all of last season (Garnsey had two goals and two assists in that flurry). The Hoyas had no answer for the bevy of moves thrown at them by Garnsey (his half-dozen tallies and eight points marked career bests), Wynne (Saturday marked the 10th time in his career he has put four or more goals on the board) and Perkovic. Rookie midfielder Bryan Costabile scored twice and led the team with five ground balls in his first collegiate start. Fellow freshman Brian Willetts notched a pair of assists (middie Pierre Byrne also had two assists and middie Brendan Gleason added two points). Always pesky John Sexton contributed his usual three caused turnovers and four more ground balls.
"Things we can take from this? It's the discipline of playing game situations," noted Corrigan when it was over. "We went up twice today and then, particularly in the second half, we got a little sloppy with the things we were doing.
"The advantage of being up is people have got to come to you, right? We tell our guys defensively we're not asking you to take the ball away. But when you go up by five, they are asking their guys to take the ball away. That makes it easier to play, but we've got to be disciplined in what we're doing. You have to find that balance between playing hard at full speed and being disciplined, even with all the emotion and everything else. It's about getting everybody on the same page at both ends of the field, and we got a little bit sloppy with that today when we got up.
"Let's just learn from all this and make us a little smarter for the next time. That was a great job of staying aggressive all day offensively--and not a ton of bad shots. We really put the pressure on them--it was such a hard day for a goalie. Our goalie had the opposite--when you only see six shots in the first half that's a long time between shots. That's a challenging thing if you're not seeing rubber like that. We kept taking good shots, putting them on goal and he had to make a lot of good saves." (Georgetown's Nick Marrocco made 15, but none in the crucial third period in which Notre Dame scored seven times in succession.)
The Irish finished with 48 shots, 31 of them on goal--and both of those totals ranked higher than in any Notre Dame game all of last season. Corrigan's crew scored at least three goals in every period--something that happened only once (at Syracuse) in 2016.
"Lot of good things we did today, but a lot of places we need to get better," concluded Corrigan. "Lot of good things to build on and a great start, fellas."
Next week brings a second challenge--this one in Notre Dame's home opener (2 p.m. EST Sunday) against a Michigan team that already is 4-0 and averages nearly 15 goals per game.
More of those little things to which to attend.
More boxes to check.
Senior associate athletics director John Heisler has been covering the Irish athletic scene as a member of the athletics communication staff since 1978. Look for his weekly Sunday Brunch pieces on UND.com.