Feb. 22, 2001
There is a sense of quiet confidence for 13th-year Notre Dame head coach Kevin Corrigan when he contemplates the 2001 season. With eight starters returning from last year's squad that reached the quarterfinals of the NCAA tournament for the second time in five seasons, Corrigan and his coaching staff can't help but think about the potential for success this season.
Last year's dramatic 15-13 upset of Loyola in the first round of the 2000 NCAA tournament surprised everyone but those who had a part in the Irish reaching the quarterfinals. Winners of 10 games last season for the fourth time in nine years, seven of the team's top eight scorers are back from last year's squad that finished with a 10-4 record.
"There is always a fine line between winning and losing," Corrigan says. "This is a team that is going to take nothing for granted. This group of players, especially the seniors, has worked extremely hard to position themselves for accomplishing some special things this season. But they also know what it takes to reach those goals."
With a wealth of talent and experience returning at every position on the field, Corrigan understands that the expectation will be greater than in any of his 12 previous seasons. But the Irish mentor knows that this is a different year and team. While the foundation is there for success again this season, this is not a Notre Dame squad which will rest on its laurels.
"It's a delicate balance that we have to find between confidence in ourselves that we gained from last year's experience and the sense you have that every team has its own journey," Corrigan says. "We have many experienced players returning, but you don't start where you left off, you start over. Regardless of how many players we have coming back, this is a different team."
A strong work ethic and key senior leadership were the driving forces behind the success of last year's team. Corrigan believes that the attitudes of his captains and his senior class will play a critical role this season as it did a year ago. It will be important for his captains - Mike Adams, Tom Glatzel, Kirk Howell and David Ulrich - and the rest of the senior class to provide the same type of leadership displayed by last year's squad.
With the return of its top four scorers, there is no denying that Notre Dame has the offensive firepower to match any team in the country. In addition, the depth and experience of the Irish on defense, will provide Corrigan with one of the most balanced attacks of anyone nationally at both ends of the field. But he also knows that there is room for improvement from both the starters and players coming off the bench.
"One of the most exciting things for me when looking at this year's squad is that we have the chance to improve in every area of the game," Corrigan says. "It's realistic for us to think that we can improve on every facet of the game. There's not an area of the game where I don't think we can be a better team than we were a year ago. That's exciting because I don't think that's always been the case.
"We're not going to make any huge jumps this year," he continues, "but the improvements that we do make are going to be made incrementally in each area of the field."
The strength of Notre Dame is with its attack unit which could be regarded as one of the most potent in the country as the Irish return all three of its starters, who also were its top three scoring leaders from a year ago. The trio of seniors Glatzel, Ulrich and Jon Harvey combined for 82 goals and 51 assists.
Glatzel and Ulrich, high school teammates at Boys' Latin in Baltimore, Md., were United States Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association (USILA) honorable mention All-America selections. Glatzel scored 38 goals (the third most by a Notre Dame player in a single season) and dished off 18 assists for 56 points, while Ulrich tallied 17 goals and tied the Irish single-season assist record with 38 for 49 points. Harvey, who scored just one goal in his two previous seasons, had one of the most dramatic turnarounds in school history as he netted 28 goals in his junior season.
"With the return of Tom, David and Jon at attack, we are blessed with tremendous scoring ability up top," Corrigan says. "Collectively, this is the most talented group of attack players that Notre Dame has ever had. Tom (Glatzel) and David (Ulrich) have distinguished themselves as two of the nation's premier players, while Jon (Harvey) has made unbelievable strides and improvements in his game."
The Irish midfield corps also boasts considerable scoring potential. One of the two starters lost to graduation from this unit a year ago was Stedman Oakey, Notre Dame's fifth-leading scorer a year ago with nine goals and 11 assists (20 points).
Todd Ulrich, a mainstay in the midfield starting unit, returns for his final season along with another fourth-year player Steve Bishko. Senior Chris Young and junior John Flandina also give balance to this unit offensively.
"We are extremely balanced offensively, and once again, we will have a number of individuals who are going to score goals for us," Corrigan says. "Our scoring balance proved to be very beneficial for us a year ago.
"We're confident this year that we can have a number of players out there who can contribute offensively. If one of our players faces a bad matchup in a contest, we need the contributions from the rest of our scorers in order to get the job done on a consistent basis."
Defensively, Notre Dame again will be strong with the loss of just one starter - Steve Fiamingo, who started all 14 games - and the return of goalie Kirk Howell. Senior Mike Adams and junior A.J. Wright, both 14-game starters, helped anchor a defense that registered a 9.07 goals against average. The unit is also strengthened by the return of junior Chad DeBolt in the defensive midfield. DeBolt played in all 14 games and ranked as one of the nation's leaders in face-off percentage, winning more than 60 percent of his opportunities. As a team, they were one of the most efficient teams in that category a year ago, ranking sixth overall with a face-off winning percent of .587.
After two years as a starter, Howell, a fifth-year player, is poised to make a run at All-America honors. He registered an 8.70 goals against average and .563 save percentage in his second season as a full-time starter.
"Last year, we began the season untested and inexperienced on defense," Corrigan says, "but I think that group and the rest of our defensive corps really rose to the occasion. Having Kirk back is certainly a bonus. He's developed into one of the finest goalies in the country.
The heart of the Irish offense starts with its attack unit where the team's top three scorers from a year ago - Tom Glatzel, David Ulrich and Jon Harvey - return. The trio accounted for 52.9 percent of the scoring offense last season as Notre Dame showed extreme versatility in this area of the field. This unit ranks possibly as one of the most experienced in the country.
Glatzel led the Irish with 38 goals and 18 assists (56 points). All three ranked as single-season personal best for him and the 38 goals were the most scored by an Irish player in a season since Randy Colley's school-record of 49 in 1995. A USILA honorable mention selection as a junior, his offensive output in terms of goals last season exceeded that of his previous first two campaigns.
Glatzel has a good understanding of the game and knows what he needs to do to put himself into positions to make plays.
"Tom has found ways to contribute and to get things done," Corrigan says. "The challenge is not only for him, but for us (as a team) to continue to find different situations where he can make plays. He's matured so much as a player both physically and mentally."
Ulrich has been as steady and consistent as any Irish player in recent memory. He has 17 goals last season and tied the Notre Dame single-season assist mark with 32. He tied for ninth nationally with 2.29 assists per game. Also a USILA honorable mention All-America selection, Ulrich has totaled 50 goals, 81 assists and 131 points during his three seasons.
Ulrich's success as a player at Notre Dame has come through his hard work and diligence in improving so many areas. He had distinguished himself as a player with no real weaknesses in his game. Ulrich is an extremely unselfish player who must continue to put himself in position to score goals.
"David must continue to be aggressive offensively," Corrigan says. "He didn't score as much at the beginning of last season because opposing defenses concentrated on stopping him. He was the focal point. As a team this year, we need to find ways to put him in situations to help us no matter what people are doing to him."
Harvey made the most dramatic improvement in terms of scoring output than any player on the team last season. Heading into the 2000 campaign, he had played in just 16 games in his previous two seasons and scored just one goal and dished off three assists. A year ago, however, as a starter in the lineup, he became a force for the Irish on offense as he scored 28 goals (second best on the team) and finished with 29 points on the season.
Harvey may have surprised some people, but Corrigan and his coaching staff were confident in his abilities. He knows how to get the ball inside and loves to play around the crease area.
"Jon was a player who wasn't going to beat himself last season," Corrigan says. "He's become an outstanding all-around player for us. He'll contribute in a number of areas for us this year with the focus on finishing his scoring opportunities. Jon benefits from the fact that everyone is beating their man all over the field, and he becomes an option in a lot of situations. He'll benefit from the fact that once again we will be a good, balanced offensive team."
Junior Owen Asplundh will look to improve his playing time as he did a year ago as he saw action in 10 contests, earned one start and scored three goals. Corrigan is confident that he will contribute even more this season.
"The most important thing Owen learned last season was the areas he needed to improve in as player," Corrigan says. "He knows where he can help and has a good understanding of what he needs to do to contribute this season."
Sophomore Mike Richtsmeier didn't see action a year ago, but is a player that could contribute at attack or in the midfield. He is an extremely versatile player who has the ability to create things offensively for the Irish. Corrigan will look for him to develop into another offensive threat that will put pressure on opponents defensively.
The Irish attack will be bolstered by the addition of three freshmen. Dan Berger appears to be the rookie to see the most playing time this season. He has considerable all-around talent and displays great vision on the field. While he needs time to develop physically, Berger will contribute this season because he has the ability to make plays.
Two other freshmen, Matt Howell and Paul Cappelli, may need time to adjust, but are expected to contribute in the future. Howell missed part of the workouts in the fall because of injury, but he got better and better as he began to understand the offensive system which Corrigan uses. Cappelli, who enjoys playing in the crease, will need a year to adjust to the college game and to develop his skills physically.
With the loss of just one starter in the midfield, Notre Dame's midfield unit should be as productive and efficient from both an offensive and defensive standpoint as it was a year ago. There will be plenty of competition for playing time with a blend of experience and youth. Seniors Steve Bishko and Todd Ulrich headline Notre Dame's midfield corps. Bishko was the fourth-leading scorer a year ago as he finished with 17 goals and six assists. In addition, he collected 44 ground balls. Bishko is a top all-around player with the versatility to be both a dominant offensive and defensive player.
"There aren't many players in the country who have the ability to excel in all facets of the game," Corrigan says. "He's a guy we can have on the field in a lot of different situations. We want him in the game when we want to control a team defensively, and he's also a player we want on the field because of his ability to score goals."
Ulrich has been as steady and consistent a performer over the past three years as any player on our team. A two-year starter, he has worked extremely hard to improve all facets of his game. Last season, he has one of the team's leading scorers with nine goals and nine assists.
"Todd is the type of player that comes out everyday and gives it his all," Corrigan says. "He's a player that can do a lot of different things. Todd is very driven to be the best player he can possibly be. His drive and intensity is very important to this team. He's made himself a good lacrosse player, and he'll continue to do the things to make us better and make himself more valuable."
Like Ulrich, Chris Young has been a player who has made considerable strides and improvements since his freshman season. A 12-game starter, he had his most productive year offensively in 2000 as he scored 12 goals and dished off two assists.
"Chris is one of our best off-ball players," Corrigan says. "He cuts extremely well to the cage and has a great sense of the game. When he has the ball, he is a threat to score. Chris is an excellent dodger and outstanding defender. He'll continue to contribute in a number of different ways."
Junior John Flandina, a player who has seen action in every game since his freshman season, offers the Irish more versatility in the midfield. He showed last year that he can contribute both offensively and defensively. Flandina, who had eight goals and six assists last season, has worked hard to become a better defensive player. The one area he needs to improve on is his ability to finish with the ball.
"John does so many things well both offensively and defensively, Corrigan says. "With his ability to handle the ball, score and control the tempo of a game, he is really one of the best all-around players. It's difficult to quantify all that he does, but sometimes his numbers don't reflect the impact he can have in a game."
Another third-year player, Chad DeBolt, will be vying for a starting position in the midfield. DeBolt, also a member of the Irish football team on special teams, is an extremely aggressive midfield player whose style of play fits in well with Notre Dame's defensive philosophy. He'll be the player to handle most face-offs for the Irish, his .606 face-off percentage (80-132) ranked ninth nationally. DeBolt also is one of the team's best ground ball players as he collected 43 ground balls last season.
"The confidence and aggressive athletic mentality that Chad has from a combination of football and lacrosse is hard to duplicate," Corrigan says. "He's a tremendous athlete and a winner. Chad will be a defensive midfielder for us again this season, and in addition to handling face-offs, we may expand his role on the playing field."
Junior Devin Ryan looks to expand his role this season. With six goals and an assist in the 14 games he played, he showed that he can be an offensive threat. Ryan has improved all facets of his game and will be a much bigger contributor in the lineup this season.
"Devin understands his strengths and knows his limitations," Corrigan says. "He will be more of a consistent factor in our lineup this season."
Senior Andy Santoriello will contend for playing time in his final season after seeing action in 10 games last season. He's an unselfish player and the type of individual programs need to make the other players around him better.
"Andy knows his role on this team and is always looking for ways to contribute," Corrigan says. "He's the type of player every program needs to have because he finds ways to contribute."
Sophomore Travis Wells, who saw action in just five games last season, has worked extremely hard since the end of last year to make himself a better player. His improvements in all areas of his game should help him get more playing time this season. Wells is expected to share some of the face-off duties with DeBolt, freshman Nick Petcoff and sophomre Eric Simon.
Senior Kevin Dugan has made considerable progress offensively since joining the team as a walk-on a year ago. He played in three games a year ago and may earn more playing time this season.
The addition of freshmen Steve Clagett, Andrew Coleman, Chris Masterson, John Mulflur, Owen Mulford and Petcoff gives the Irish tremendous depth in the midfield. While they may not see a great deal of playing time this season, they comprise a very strong rookie midfield corps who will have a solid future in the program. Petcoff could become a factor for the Irish if he helps out with some of the face-off duties, while Mulfur appears to be the real workhorse of this freshman class because of his strong work ethic.
Defense once again will be a strength of this Notre Dame team. Losing just one starter from last year's unit will once again bring continuity. Returning starters, senior Mike Adams and junior A.J. Wright have the experience of playing together which will benefit the Irish this season as both were 14-game starters a year ago.
Adams learned a great deal last season in his first year as a full-time starter. Many times in games last season, he was responsible for the opponents top offensive player. While not a scoring threat, he did manage three goals last season and collected 43 ground balls.
"Mike was the guy last year who we had playing the opposing team's best player," Corrigan says. "His experiences over the last two years are going to put him in position where he won't see much that he hasn't seen before. He's been forced to play other players who are quicker, but has always done well defending them. I'm not sure that there is much that is going to surprise him. I think his best lacrosse is yet to come."
Wright's increased playing time and role that he played a year ago, coincides with the confidence he has gained in his ability on the field. Wright is a big, athletic player with all the tools and skills to have an outstanding career over the next two seasons.
"A.J. wasn't considered a premier player coming out of high school," Corrigan says, "but I always found it hard to believe he wasn't. With the experience he gained a year ago, he has the tools, mindset and capabilities to have an outstanding career. His confidence is as high as its ever been. I'm looking forward to him having a great season."
Senior Mike Pfeffer, who played in all 14 games, came back last year after missing the 1999 campaign while studying abroad in Europe. After the year's absence, he came back a little sluggish and had to readjust his overall game. Corrigan is confident in Pfeffer abilities this season and expects him to have a strong senior season and contend for a starting job.
"Mike is a player who gives our defense some flexibility and a little bit more athleticism," Corrigan says. "As a fifth-year player, he has a little bit more maturity than some of the other guys on the team because he is older. His maturity will benefit our all-round play this season."
Corrigan believes that sophomore John Souch, who played in all 14 games as a freshman last season, is as good a long-stick middie as there is in the country. The Irish mentor expects this second-year player to become one of the program's best defensive players.
"John is in a position to really help us out this season," Corrigan says. "He struggled somewhat at the beginning of last season, but with game and practice experience as the spring progressed, he became a very reliable player for us. He worked hard during the off-season getting himself in shape, and I expect his game to show considerable progress."
Juniors Matt Leisen and Chris Fallon have put themselves in position to see more playing time this season after both saw action in three games last year. Fallon has shown that he can be a very versatile player because of his intelligence and ability to handle the ball. Corrigan anticipates that he is a player who is going to get on the field more this season.
The sophomore class of Mike Fries, Brooks Hartnett and Eric Simon will have a chance to compete for playing time because of the progress that they have shown since the start of last season. Newcomer Kyle Frigon, a sophomore, adds depth to the Irish defensive corps.
Rookies Mickey Blum, Brannan Creaney and Hani Rimlawi represent a very talented freshman class on defense for the Irish. Blum has unbelieveable potential and is expected to compete for considerable playing time this season. He has great field sense, is knowledgeable and understands the game. Creaney was one of the most improved players on the team in the fall after making the position switch from mid to long-stick middie.
The situation in goal remains solid and a real strength of this Irish team with the return of third-year incumbent Kirk Howell. His numbers were impressive a year ago as he ranked 11th nationally with an 8.70 goals against average and 5.73 saves percentage. In 14 games, he allowed 119 goals and had more than 150 saves for the second straight year as he finished with 153.
It is difficult for opposing teams to score on Howell because of his ability and penchant for making big stops in key situations. In seven of Notre Dame's 14 games a year ago, he held opponents to under 10 goals.
"The challenge for Kirk this season," Corrigan says, "will be to continue to improve. He is an outstanding goalkeeper who will contend for All-America honors, He displays a great deal of poise and plays well under pressure. Kirk's play in goal has the ability to ignite our team."
Sophomore Nick Antol and freshman Stewart Crosland represent the future of the Notre Dame lacrosse team in goal. The goalkeeping situation for the Irish appears to be healthy with Antol and Crosland backing up Howell. Antol, who did not see action in any game last season, is much improved from a year ago and is a quality player to back up Howell in the net. With the steady improvements he has made since his rookie season, Antol has positioned himself to see playing time as the top Irish reserve. Crosland will compete for the backup spot with Antol. He has a strong presence around the cage and has the ability to stop a lot of shots.