Feb. 28, 2014
#11 NOTRE DAME (1-1, 0-0 ACC)
#2 NORTH CAROLINA (3-0, 0-0 ACC)
Saturday, March 1 Noon (ET)
Fetzer Field Chapel Hill, N.C.
NOTRE DAME, Ind. - Speculation turned into reality, schedules were set in place and the league's three letters were added to the jerseys and (finally) Saturday will be the first time the Notre Dame men's lacrosse team will step onto the field for an Atlantic Coast Conference game.
The 11th-ranked Fighting Irish (1-1) open their inaugural ACC slate against No. 2 North Carolina (3-0) at noon (ET) on Fetzer Field in Chapel Hill. It'll be exactly eight months ago Saturday that Notre Dame officially joined its new conference and while many of the school's other athletic programs have experienced ACC competition, the men's lacrosse squad has yet to take its turn.
However, playing an ACC opponent is nothing new for the Notre Dame men's lacrosse team and introductions between the Fighting Irish and Tar Heels won't be necessary. This will be the 12th meeting all-time between the two programs and nine of those encounters have taken place since the 2003 campaign. North Carolina holds a slim 6-5 edge in the series, which now becomes an annual affair in the stout conference.
The six ACC programs have combined to win 24 national championships and at least one team has appeared in the national title game in 40 of the 43 seasons in which it has been held. Notre Dame has cemented itself as a factor on the national stage with two national semifinal appearances in the last four seasons, including a title-game showdown with Duke in 2010.
"When you look at the quality of depth of the ACC, virtually any team in the league can win the national championship in any given year," Notre Dame head coach Kevin Corrigan said. "Our goal is to win the national championship and we've been competing at that level. We've played 11 games in the last three or four years against ACC teams. It's something we're excited about, but it really doesn't change our mindset with what we're doing."
Lacrosse fans will be in for a treat if the caliber of non-conference tilts between Notre Dame and North Carolina spill over into ACC action. The 11 all-time meetings have been decided by just 22 goals and the last two showdowns went to overtime.
Notre Dame clipped North Carolina 10-9 in triple-overtime last season at Arlotta Stadium. Matt Kavanagh deposited the game winner 15 seconds into the third overtime period after the Fighting Irish mounted a furious last-minute comeback in regulation to force the extra sessions. A man-up goal from Sean Rogers that was assisted by Kavanagh sliced the deficit to one (9-8) with 57 seconds remaining. Kavanagh, who had four goals and two assists in the contest, scored to tie things up with just 11 seconds left.
That was the second of Notre Dame's six one-goal games last season. The Fighting Irish went 4-2 in those close contests and the one-score trend made its way back to Arlotta Stadium last weekend as the Irish fell to Penn State, 8-7. Notre Dame tallied four of the game's final five goals and held the Nittany Lions scoreless for the final 20:06, but it wasn't enough.
When the game concluded Corrigan wasn't consumed with the looming ACC ledger and the challenges it will offer.
"You can't stand here and look at the schedule; it's February," Corrigan said.
As the calendar flips from February to March on Saturday, the Fighting Irish turn the page to the next game of the season and begin the newest chapter for the program.
SETTING THE STAGE
No. 11 Notre Dame (1-1) will open its inaugural Atlantic Coast Conference slate Saturday at No. 2 North Carolina (3-0). Face-off is scheduled for noon (ET) at Fetzer Field in Chapel Hill, N.C.
The game will be broadcast on ESPN3 and live stats will be available on GoHeels.com.
TAKING ON THE TAR HEELS
Saturday will be the 12th meeting all-time between Notre Dame and North Carolina. The Tar Heels have a 6-5 edge in the series. The last two encounters have been decided in overtime with each team claiming a victory.
The Fighting Irish topped the Tar Heels, 10-9 in triple-overtime, last season at Arlotta Stadium.
Notre Dame is 1-4 all-time at North Carolina. The last meeting in Chapel Hill took place during the 2011 season and the Tar Heels produced a 9-8 win in overtime.
Fighting Irish head coach Kevin Corrigan is 5-6 all-time versus North Carolina.
THE LAST TIME
Notre Dame defeated North Carolina 10-9 in triple-overtime last season at Arlotta Stadium. Matt Kavanagh netted the game winner 15 seconds into the third overtime period.
The Fighting Irish trailed 9-7 with under a minute left in regulation, yet made a furious comeback to send the game to overtime. A man-up goal from Sean Rogers that was assisted by Kavanagh sliced the deficit to one with 57 seconds remaining. Kavanagh, who had four goals and two assists in the contest, scored to tie things up with just 11 seconds left.
Liam O'Connor went 17-for-25 in the faceoff X.
KAVANAGH PICKS UP WHERE HE LEFT OFF
After leading the Irish in goals (32) and assists (16) last season, sophomore attackman Matt Kavanagh has notched team-bests in goals (6) and assists (6) through the first two games of this season.
Kavanagh registered a career-high seven points on three goals and a career-best four assists in the season opener at Jacksonville. He followed that up with three goals and two assists against Penn State.
The seven points against Jacksonville were the most for a Notre Dame player since current senior attackman John Scioscia posted seven (6g, 1a) last season against Marquette. Kavanagh became the first Irish player to have four assists in a game since Neal Hicks did so versus Ohio State on May 3, 2009.
Kavanagh has scored two or more goals in 13 of his 18 career games with the Irish. He has netted three or more goals on six occasions.
A LOOK AT NORTH CAROLINA
North Carolina is off to a 3-0 start this season. The Tar Heels opened the campaign with a 19-3 win at Furman before capturing home victories over Manhattan (21-5) and Dartmouth (18-5).
Junior attackman Joey Sankey leads the Tar Heels in goals (9) and assists (6). Sophomore Kieran Burke has all three decisions in goal and carries a 3.88 goals-against average and a .710 save percentage.
North Carolina went 13-4 last season (2-1 ACC) and earned the No. 5 seed for the NCAA Championship before falling to Denver, 12-11, in the quarterfinals. North Carolina won the 2013 ACC Tournament.
Head coach Joe Breschi is in his sixth season at North Carolina.
FACE OFF SUCCESS
Notre Dame boasts a .673 faceoff winning percentage this season.
Senior Liam O'Connor is 25-for-39 (.641), while junior Nick Ossello is 7-for-8 (.875) and freshman P.J. Finley is 1-for-2.
The Fighting Irish won 23 of the 30 attempts in the season opener at Jacksonville before going 10-for-19 against Penn State.
Notre Dame used 13 different goal scorers in the 19-7 season-opening victory at Jacksonville. Leading the way was sophomore attackman Matt Kavanagh, who posted three goals and four assists. Fellow attackman Conor Doyle, a junior, joined Kavanagh with a hat trick.
The 19 goals were the most for the Fighting Irish since a 19-7 win over Dartmouth on Feb. 28, 2009. That game also was the last time the Irish netted eight goals in a quarter until an eight-goal first period versus Jacksonville.
Those were the most goals scored in a season-opener for the Fighting Irish since a 21-5 triumph over Canisius in the 1993 opener.
Four Notre Dame players netted their first career goal in the season-opening win at Jacksonville. Sophomores Eddy Lubowicki (2 goals) and Trevor Brosco (1 goal) along with freshmen Sergio Perkovic (2 goals) and Robert Collins (1 goal) all found the back of the net for the first time.
FIGHTING IRISH ENTER THE ACC
Notre Dame is entering its first season of Atlantic Coast Conference play.
The Fighting Irish have defeated every other ACC member at least once in the last four seasons and the Irish have an 8-8 record against its ACC counterparts (including Syracuse) since the beginning of the 2010 campaign.
The ACC will be Notre Dame's third different league in the last six seasons. The Irish left the Great Western Lacrosse League following the 2009 campaign to join the BIG EAST.
IRISH RETURN OFFENSE
Notre Dame returned 111 of its 159 goals (.698) from last season. The Fighting Irish welcomed back four of their top five goal scorers from the 2013 campaign (Matt Kavanagh 32, Conor Doyle 20, Jim Marlatt 20, John Scioscia 14).
A LOOK BACK
Notre Dame went 11-5 overall last season and finished third in the BIG EAST with a 4-2 mark. The Fighting Irish finished the 2013 regular season with the nation's top RPI and earned a program-best No. 2 seed for the NCAA Championship before advancing to the NCAA quarterfinals for the fourth straight season.
Attackman Matt Kavanagh led the Irish in goals (32) and assists (16). The 32 goals established a program record for a freshman. Jim Marlatt was the leading midfielder scorer with 20 goals to go along with 12 assists.
Notre Dame returns two starting close defensemen in seniors Brian Buglione and Stephen O'Hara. The Fighting Irish finished the 2013 season ranked 10th nationally in scoring defense with an 8.31 goals-against average.
HOME SWEET HOME
Notre Dame is 45-7 (.865) at home since the beginning of the 2006 season.
Nearly every Notre Dame game this season can be seen on TV or the Internet. The Fighting Irish will have five contests on ESPNU (vs. Virginia, at Syracuse, vs. Duke, vs. Maryland, vs. Army), one game on ESPN3 (at North Carolina) and the season opener at Jacksonville aired on the NBC Sports Network.
WatchND.tv streamed the Penn State contest and will also provide a free broadcast for the Robert Morris game on April 12.
Notre Dame's showdown at Ohio State (March 25, 4 p.m.) also will be streamed online (fee required).
A QUARTET OF PRESEASON ALL-AMERICANS
Four Fighting Irish players received preseason All-America honors from Inside Lacrosse. Stephen O'Hara (Sr./D) was a first-team pick, while Jim Marlatt (Sr./M) appeared on the second team and Matt Kavanagh (So./A) was a third-team selection. Matt Landis (So./D) garnered honorable mention accolades.
Notre Dame is ranked 11th in the latest USILA coaches poll and eight Fighting Irish opponents also appear in the rankings, including seven in the top nine.
The Fighting Irish are entering their first season of ACC play and all six of the league members can be found in the top 11. Duke, North Carolina, Maryland and Virginia occupy the top four spots, while Syracuse is eighth.
Notre Dame's non-conference ledger features three other ranked foes - No. 6 Denver, No. 9 Penn State and No. 19 Ohio State.
O'HARA PICKED IN MLL DRAFT
Senior defenseman Stephen O'Hara was selected by the Ohio Machine with the first pick of the sixth round (41st overall) of January's 2014 Major League Lacrosse (MLL) Draft.
O'Hara has started every game over the last two seasons in Notre Dame's close defense, which has been one of the best in the nation over that time. The Fighting Irish allowed just 8.31 goals per game last season. That mark ranked 10th nationally and the Irish were first in 2012 after notching a 6.31 goals-against average. O'Hara, a Fighting Irish team captain, was named to the All-BIG EAST Second Team last season.
Junior attackman Conor Doyle is joined by his older brother Jack Doyle on this season's roster. Jack, a midfielder, graduated from Harvard and was on the Crimson squad for four seasons. He combined to play in 28 games during his freshman and sophomore seasons, but was limited to just one contest over the last two years due to injury. He tallied 14 goals and eight assists at Harvard.
Conor Kelly LOOKS TO KEEP CAGE CONSISTENCY GOING FOR IRISH
Junior goalie Conor Kelly is in his first season as a starter for the Fighting Irish. He has a 6.86 goals-against average and a .478 save percentage this season.
Entering this season, Kelly had played a total of 12:35. All of those minutes came in last season's 17-5 win over Marquette. He made one save and allowed two goals in that contest.
Kelly is looking to become the latest in a long line of outstanding goalies for the Fighting Irish. Kelly is taking over for John Kemp, who earned All-America honors three times with the Irish. Kemp was named to the USILA All-America First Team in 2012 and earned honorable mention citations in 2011 and 2013.
Kemp was the third straight Notre Dame goalie to receive All-America honors. Scott Rodgers earned third team All-America honors in 2009 and was an honorable mention pick in 2010. He also was named the Most Outstanding Player of the 2010 NCAA Championship.
Joey Kemp, John's older brother, was a three-time All-America honoree at Notre Dame. He copped first-team honors in 2008 in addition to honorable mention accolades in 2006 and 2007.
Two other Notre Dame goalies have garnered All-America honors. Alex Cade was an honorable mention pick in 1996 and Kirk Howell was on the USILA Second Team in 2001.
Notre Dame and Maryland are the only two programs to earn a spot in the NCAA Championship field in each of the last eight seasons.
Notre Dame and Duke are the only two schools to advance to the quarterfinals of the NCAA Championship in each of the last four seasons.
-- Sean Carroll, Assistant Athletic Media Relations Director