April 11, 2017
By John Heisler
Anyone who happened by Arlotta Stadium a little before five o'clock Tuesday saw that the University of Notre Dame men's lacrosse team had an impressive leg up on ending its two-game slide.
A minute into the second period, Irish senior All-America midfielder Sergio Perkovic already had four goals, including two in 11 seconds to push the home team's advantage to 8-2 against Marquette.
The Irish offense was flowing smoothly at that point--with all 11 Notre Dame shots ending up on goal and eight finding their way past junior Golden Eagle goaltender Cole Blazer.
The visitors persevered and found ways to grind out possession after possession from there, scoring the final three goals of the first half and notching four in a row to tie the contest 10-10 with just under eight minutes remaining.
It took Perkovic's career-best sixth goal with :25.8 seconds to go to win it for the seventh-rated Irish.
The 11-10 Notre Dame victory marked the fifth one-goal game of 2017 for the Irish, now 6-3 overall--with four of those ending by that same 11-10 count (wins over Virginia in OT and Marquette, losses to Denver and Syracuse).
This was the same Marquette team that played the Irish to overtime a year ago in South Bend (before Matt Kavanagh's game-winner), ended up winning the Big East title and played host to an NCAA first-round game in its first appearance in the tournament.
Out of a 1-1 tie, Notre Dame's Brendan Collins drew the eyes of Golden Eagle defenders and found junior Mikey Wynne for an easy goal in front (with Wynne tying sophomore Ryder Garnsey for the team lead in goals in the process). Thirty-eight seconds later the first of Perkovic's markers prompted a Marquette timeout.
Perkovic scored out of a dodge less than a minute and a half later--and the Irish had accounted for three goals in a 1:57 span. Wynne's second made it 5-1, then senior midfielder Bobby Gray raised the score to 6-1. Notre Dame scored five goals in 6:15 against a Marquette defense that rated seventh nationally while allowing 7.74 goals per game.
Notre Dame's 6-2 lead after one period qualified as its highest-scoring opening quarter of 2017 (and only behind the seven goals in the third period versus Georgetown in the opener) and the most allowed by Marquette in a period this year.
Perkovic had a hat trick 49 seconds into the second period--and his fourth goal 11 seconds later (on his fifth shot) made it appear the Irish would cruise.
The Notre Dame offense hardly could have played more efficiently to that stage.
But, give Marquette credit. The Golden Eagles could have warmed up the bus, but instead they scored the final three goals of the second period to make it 8-5 at intermission--the second of those three goals coming with Notre Dame down two men.
The Irish had turned the ball over only three times and had put all but one of their 14 shots on goal.
"That's as good a half as we can play possession to possession offensively--did we have two possessions where we did not get a great shot?" Irish coach Kevin Corrigan told his squad at the break. "We need to continue doing what we do.
"The good news is we're making them grind out their possessions (on offense). We're not taking away the things we have to take away. Step up and get to those guys. Simple game--let's go play."
The Irish scored two of the first three goals in the second half--the first on Perkovic's fifth of the afternoon (tying his career high, most recently against Denver in the 2015 NCAA semifinals) and the second almost 11 minutes later on the first of the year by senior captain Anthony Marini on a feed from Brendan Collins.
Marquette dominated time of possession in that third period by winning four of five face-offs, forcing four Irish turnovers and outshooting the home team 11-3.
The Golden Eagles scored the last goal of the third period in the final 43 seconds and then notched three straight in the final 15 minutes (with three of those four by senior attack Joe Dunn). Notre Dame staved off two major penalties in the final period, and Marquette survived one slashing call.
The tie game lasted more than seven minutes. Marquette called a timeout at 1:59, then Notre Dame senior goaltender Shane Doss made the last of his 12 saves with about a minute remaining. The Irish followed with a timeout of their own at :57.7, Brendan Collins missed from out front with about 40 seconds remaining--and Perkovic (now Notre Dame's leader in goals with 19) fought his way through the defense to score left-handed to win it.
Marquette's last gasp ended on Notre Dame senior defender Pat Healy's stick-check on the Golden Eagles' Noah Richard that knocked the ball loose and ended the action.
"I loved the spirit we showed to make the plays at the end," Corrigan said immediately after the conclusion.
"We found a way to win today and that's a heck of a lot better than not," he added later in the locker room.
Corrigan and his players all knew that at 8-2 they had a chance to wear down their opponent--but they let the visitors off the hook.
"We've got to be a little smarter in game situations," he added. "We've got to be capable of making the big plays when they need to be made--it's critical efficiency.
"We've got to get better."
The Irish were outshot 38-26, lost the ground ball battle 35-30 and saw Marquette (now 6-4 with regular-season games against Providence, Duke and Denver remaining) win 18 of 25 face-offs.
Notre Dame has 11 days between games--with the Irish set to take a mini-break over the Easter weekend before preparing for their final league game and home finale April 22 against defending NCAA champion North Carolina (that game already is sold out).
"I'm happy we won, but there's a lot of work to be done."
Senior associate athletics director John Heisler has been covering the Notre Dame athletics scene since 1978. Watch for his weekly Sunday Brunch offerings on UND.com.