April 4, 2014
#3 DUKE (9-2, 2-1)
Saturday, April 5 Noon (ET)
NOTRE DAME, Ind. - Notre Dame's recent showdowns with Duke have meant early-season momentum and late-season heartbreak for the Fighting Irish. The rivalry takes on new significance Saturday when the Irish and Blue Devils meet in a marquee midseason matchup with Atlantic Coast Conference implications.
The Fighting Irish opened the previous four seasons with wins over Duke, while three of those campaigns ended at the hands of the Blue Devils in the postseason. Saturday's tilt at Arlotta Stadium won't have winner-take-all ramifications, but No. 7 Notre Dame (4-3, 2-1) and No. 3 Duke (9-2, 2-1) enter the affair tied for second place in the ACC and the victor will join Maryland atop the standings with just one league game left to play.
It'll be the latest chapter in a series that has escalated rather quickly.
After Notre Dame recorded its first-ever NCAA tournament win with a 12-10 triumph at Duke in 1995, the series was dormant until 2010. That year, Notre Dame posted a 7-6 regular-season mark and squeezed into the postseason thanks in large part to an 11-7 season-opening victory at Duke that was a major boost on the Fighting Irish resume. The unseeded Irish opened the tournament with three straight wins to set up a rematch with the Blue Devils in the national title game in Baltimore.
"We've been saying that Duke is so good they got themselves in the tournament and us in the tournament," Notre Dame head coach Kevin Corrigan said prior to the 2010 national championship game.
The Blue Devils clipped the Irish in overtime, 6-5, to claim the title and spark what has become one of the hottest rivalries in the sport.
It was déjà vu in 2011 as Notre Dame bested Duke 12-7 in the season opener in Jacksonville, yet fell to the Blue Devils 7-5 in the NCAA quarterfinals in Foxborough, Mass.
Duke made its first trek to Notre Dame in February of 2012 and the Fighting Irish sent the Blue Devils packing with a 7-3 defeat. The two teams avoided a postseason rematch that year, but it nearly happened as both squads fell in the national semifinals.
Avoiding each other in the postseason would not happen again as the Irish and Blue Devils met in the quarterfinals at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. The Notre Dame duo of Kavanagh (3 goals, 3 assists) and Marlatt (2 goals, 2 assists) tormented the Blue Devils once again, but Duke scored the final three goals of the game to claim a 12-11 victory en route to the national title.
It should come as no surprise that these two teams have navigated the bracket well enough to meet each other in three of the last four tournaments. Notre Dame and Duke are the only schools to advance to the quarterfinals of the NCAA Championship in each of the last four seasons and the Blue Devils have a current run of seven straight Championship Weekend appearances.
If any Fighting Irish player knows what the Duke rivalry is all about it's fifth-year senior midfielder Pat Cotter, who has been around for all seven meetings over the last four campaigns.
"There's definitely some added motivation to this game because of the history and playing them more than any other team since I've been here," Cotter said. "Having played them so much over the years we are pretty familiar with them and we know them pretty well compared to other teams. They have a good team. We just want to come out and focus on what we can do well. It should be a great game. They are one of the top teams in the ACC and one of the top teams in the country.
"It's been five years since that (national championship) game and I think our program has grown a lot since then. It's not so much about us getting back there as much as taking it one game at a time and not looking at the big picture too much."
If the Fighting Irish are going to notch a victory on Saturday they will likely need Kavanagh to put up numbers similar to what he did last season versus the Blue Devils. The sophomore attackman leads the Irish with 20 goals and 13 assists this season, but was limited to just two assists in last Saturday's 11-10 setback at Syracuse. Kavanagh has registered 26 points (17 goals, 9 assists) in Notre Dame's four victories, yet has been held to seven (3 goals, 4 assists) in the three losses.
"If they are going to slide that quickly to him (Kavanagh) almost every time he has the ball, then other guys have to make a play," Corrigan said following the Syracuse game. "But he needs to make an adjustment and he needs to get the ball out of his stick in that situation. We're used to him being able to carry it against a little pressure and we can keep playing off of that, but he can't carry it off of double-team pressure.
"It's like the `Jordan Rules', they are going to try to take the ball out of his stick or make him make some phenomenal play against the double-team."
Fellow attackman Conor Doyle has helped take some of the scoring load off of Kavanagh. The junior netted a career-high four goals versus Syracuse and he is the only Fighting Irish player to record a point in every game this season. His overall point streak stands at 10 games and he's scored a goal in nine straight contests.
Doyle will look to up his team-best point streak versus a Duke squad that has won five straight since suffering back-to-back losses against Maryland (10-6) and Loyola (14-7). The Blue Devils have climbed back up the polls and they will be the fourth top-10 opponent the Irish will have faced so far this season. The Fighting Irish have won two of the three showdowns with top-10 teams and both victories came against ACC foes. Notre Dame came back to win at No. 2 North Carolina, 11-10, and erupted in an 18-9 triumph of No. 7 Virginia.
The win over the Cavaliers on March 16 was the last time Notre Dame played at home and Saturday will be a welcome return for the Fighting Irish, who had five of their first seven games of the season take place away from South Bend. Three of Notre Dame's next four contests are slated for Arlotta Stadium, including the ACC regular-season finale versus Maryland on April 19. An Irish victory on Saturday would set up an ACC regular-season title tilt against the Terrapins.
It's only fitting that a Notre Dame-Duke clash would have a lot at stake.
-- Sean Carroll, Assistant Athletic Media Relations Director
The University of Notre Dame men's lacrosse team pursues excellence on and off the field through the three pillars in which the program is built: Character, Culture & Community. These three foundational values guide the promise of the program, which is to provide its student-athletes with the most compelling and enriching experience in all of college athletics. Through academics, competition, service and travel, the program aims to immerse its players in situations that enhance their student-athlete experience to help them become the people, students and teammates they aspire to be.
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