March 24, 2014
#7 NOTRE DAME (3-2)
Tuesday, March 25 4 p.m. (ET)
NOTRE DAME, Ind. - It's fitting that just over 50 years to the day of Notre Dame's first modern-day men's lacrosse game the Fighting Irish will face their oldest rival.
On March 24, 1964, the Notre Dame men's lacrosse club team made its debut with an 11-6 win over Colorado State and Tuesday the seventh-ranked Fighting Irish (3-2) will face Ohio State (2-5), the school they have played the most since becoming a varsity program in 1981.
The two squads squared off 14 times during Notre Dame's club years and they have met at least once every season since the Fighting Irish gained varsity status. Notre Dame has posted 11 straight wins over Ohio State en route to a 29-9 advantage in the varsity series.
Nineteen of those wins came between 1994 and 2009 when the two programs were together in the Great Western Lacrosse League and now the Fighting Irish are gunning for a key non-conference win against the Buckeyes. While Notre Dame is the only Atlantic Coast Conference team undefeated in league play this season (2-0), the Irish are 1-2 versus non-conference foes.
Tuesday's showdown in Columbus will be Notre Dame's first since downing then No. 7 Virginia 18-9 a week ago Sunday inside the Loftus Sports Center. An eight-day span without a game is rare during the midpoint of a season, but the Irish hope it has them in top-form for this week's slate that also takes them to Syracuse on Saturday.
"Every time we have a layoff, we kind of focus on ourselves," senior midfielder Tyler Brenneman said. "We took two days off to rest and recover and then we really focused on getting back to the things we do well. We focused on the things we know we have to do to be successful and really honing in on that, which is important because that's our identity and the way we're going to play no matter what."
Momentum is a hard thing to maintain, but the Fighting Irish wouldn't mind if some was still hanging around following the Virginia win. Half of Notre Dame's 18-goal output against the Cavaliers came in the final quarter, making it the team's highest-scoring period since the 2008 campaign. Four of the fourth-quarter tallies occurred just over a minute apart to push the lead from four to eight (15-7). The Irish also had a second-quarter spurt that saw them notch five straight times in 2:20.
"(Scoring in bunches) has been huge for us especially with Liam (O'Connor) winning all of those faceoffs," Brenneman said. "Our ability to go from defense to offense is huge. (Short-stick defensive midfielders) Jack Near, myself, Nick Koshansky and Marty (Matthew Collins) all have the ability to pick up the ball and get an easy clear, which is big because clears are an enormous part of the game. Defense is a grind and having the ability to go from defense to offense or offense to defense is huge because we're not so worried about getting our personal on and off the field as much as we are playing in the moment."
While opposing defenses may set their sights on sophomore attackman Matt Kavanagh, who leads the Irish with 13 goals and 10 assists, Notre Dame has shown the ability to spread the scoring load. The Fighting Irish have had 19 different players deposit a goal this season and they are averaging 16.0 goals and 10.7 goal scorers in their three wins.
"If you go back to our scrimmages and every game we've played this year, we're not a team that can rely on one guy; that's not going to be who we are," Notre Dame head coach Kevin Corrigan said. "We don't want to have to rely on one aspect of the game. When we're at our best, we're scoring in transition, we're scoring in some substitution and unsettled type plays, we're scoring in six-on-six and off of faceoffs. When you're getting those kind of contributions from all those areas of the game, that's when you're really hard to defend."
The versatile Irish offense will be put to the test against a Buckeye defense that has tightened up as of late. After allowing 10 goals per game through the first four contests of the season, the Buckeyes have trimmed their goals-against average to 7.7 over the last three affairs. Overall, Ohio State's goals scored per game (8.4) and goals against (9.0) are nearly identical for the season.
The Buckeyes also will look to reverse the trend of close losses to ranked foes. Notre Dame will be the fourth top-11 squad Ohio State has faced this season and the Buckeyes have dropped the first three by a combined eight goals. A close margin between the Fighting Irish and Buckeyes would be nothing new. Three of the last four meetings have been one-goal Irish wins with last season's 9-4 Notre Dame victory bucking that trend.
The 2014 version of the Fighting Irish hope to provide the program with a nice golden anniversary gift by taking down the Scarlet and Gray.
-- Sean Carroll, Assistant Athletic Media Relations Director
Follow the Notre Dame men's lacrosse team on social media and the Internet ...
Click here to follow ND Lacrosse on Twitter
-- ND --