March 25, 2017
By John Heisler
In 2016 the University of Notre Dame men's lacrosse team defeated a super-charged Maryland team by holding the Terps' offense to four goals. In 2017 the Irish did the same thing.
In 2016 Notre Dame followed that effort with a one-goal loss against top-ranked Denver. In 2017 the Irish did the same thing.
In 2016 Notre Dame then won an overtime contest against Virginia. In 2017 the Irish (last Saturday) did the same thing.
In 2016 second-rated Notre Dame held on a week later for a 9-8 win at Ohio State. In 2017 the Irish (again ranked second) flipped the script against the previously unbeaten (and now 9-1) Buckeyes, still looking for their first win against Notre Dame since 2004.
Other than a brief lapse at the end of the first half when Ohio State put two goals on the board in the final nine seconds, Kevin Corrigan's Irish club did most all the things it wanted to do in a dominating 12-7 victory over the Buckeyes.
Notre Dame now owns wins against three Big Ten clubs in 2017--over current 20th-rated Michigan (the Wolverines' only defeat to date), top-rated (at the time) Maryland and now fourth-ranked Ohio State.
"We've played the toughest schedule in the country to this point," Corrigan said before the game. "Have we learned from that? If we've learned from that and we're disciplined about what we do and how we do it then we're right where we need to be. Let's take the lessons of the games we've had. This is going to be no less a battle than the one we had against Maryland in terms of every ground ball and every possession being meaningful."
The Irish had most everything their way early. Senior captain Sergio Perkovic continued his hot streak--on his way to a second consecutive hat trick--with a goal less than four minutes into the game on the fourth shot of the possession. Notre Dame's defense forced three early Buckeye turnovers, and Ohio State did not manage a shot until almost seven minutes into the contest.
After the Bucks tied the game at one, Irish sophomore Ryder Garnsey scored twice in 66 seconds. When Brendan Collins' left-hander found the net at :22.5 the home team maintained a 4-1 edge after one period. Notre Dame net-minder Shane Doss made five of his nine saves in that opening 15 minutes.
Garnsey assisted on a Bryan Costabile man-up goal, senior Bobby Gray fired in a left-hander and another Perkovic tally (also with the man advantage) made it 7-3 for the Irish. And Notre Dame had the ball in the final minute, only to see a Costabile miss and some rough ground-ball play translate into Ohio State goals with nine seconds left and again as time expired. That limited Notre Dame's halftime advantage to 7-5.
"We played a great half of lacrosse except for about four plays, three of them ground-ball plays," said Corrigan in the locker room. "So let's go back and get our poise and let's do what we just did for those 28 minutes. Take a deep breath here, because besides those things we played some really good lacrosse in the first half. Keep moving the ball, be patient and get good shots. We did a great job defending them six on six. This half is going to come down to smart, hard ground-ball play. Let's go."
Costabile added a second tally about three minutes into the third period (after a Buckeye penalty), followed by long-stick middie John Sexton's fourth career goal (from Garnsey) at 5:56 for a 9-5 advantage.
Ohio State senior Eric Fannell, who had three goals and four assists last week in the Buckeyes' big win over Denver, notched his only point of the day on a goal early in the final period. The Irish finished it off in style with scores by Perkovic--as he drove like a fullback through traffic--then Brendan Gleason (on a Sexton assist) and finally Mikey Wynne (from Bobby Collins) with just over a minute remaining.
"We said that we believe we can be a complete team. I think we showed it today in terms of doing it all in one game, other than a few egregious mental errors--and I think we paid for just about every one of them which is a good lesson, too" said Corrigan in the locker room when it was over.
"It's great to learn from what we're doing and it's even better to learn from a win. Outside of those couple of things we were good today. We were smart offensively, we made plays in the ride and the clear--and we stymied them at the defensive end outside of the unsettled things they got. So let's build on this.
"I couldn't be more proud of the way we played today, except for about two and a half minutes."
The Buckeyes had held eight of their previous nine opponents to eight goals or fewer but surrendered a dozen Saturday (most Ohio State has permitted this season) at Arlotta Stadium.
Meanwhile, a stingy Irish defense allowed Ohio State a season-low 30 shots to go with those seven goals--against a Buckeye offense that had scored at least a dozen times in seven of nine wins.
The Irish outshot the visitors 44-30 (Ohio State's season low in that category had been 34 three times) and committed only 11 turnovers. Senior defender Garrett Epple caused three more turnovers and Sexton caused a pair to go with his team-leading five ground balls.
Corrigan's club heads back into league play next weekend with another home game against a fifth-rated Syracuse team (6-1) coming off an overtime win Saturday against 11th-ranked Duke. Each of the last six Orange games has been a one-goal contest--with Syracuse winning four in a row.
Another Saturday--and another mountain to climb.
Senior associate athletics director John Heisler has been covering the Notre Dame athletics scene since 1978. Watch for his weekly SundayBrunch offerings on UND.com.