May 23, 2014
BALTIMORE - The Notre Dame men's lacrosse team had a busy afternoon in Baltimore's famed inner harbor. Head coach Kevin Corrigan and a variety of players took care of media obligations at M&T Bank Stadium, meeting with broadcast crews from ESPN and Westwood One, while taping some humorous segments with the RavensVision staff to air on the stadium's jumbotrons this weekend.
The rest of the team made the quick trek over to the stadium for an hour-long practice on the field. The Irish hustled back to their hotel to shower and change before the NCAA's Fan Fest and pep rally followed by a nice Italian team dinner.
The Fighting Irish team and traveling party has been comfortable in its surroundings since arriving in Baltimore last night. Not only does the roster include nine Old Line State natives and a coaching staff that regularly traverses I-95 on the recruiting trail, but the Irish are no strangers to the sport's hallowed championship weekend either.
Playing in a 71,000-seat NFL stadium with ESPN's Spidercam hovering overhead is something the Irish have been privileged to do often over the past few seasons.
This is Notre Dame's third time in five years appearing on a nationally-televised stage in one of the country's most grandiose sporting venues. Since 2010, only Duke has appeared in more than Notre Dame's three NCAA semifinal games.
Corrigan was not ready to talk about what it means to be back on this familiar glorious stage when interviewed by Westwood One before today's practice. He's just thinking about what is at stake this weekend, one last mountain that his program has yet to climb.
"Being here means that we have a chance to win a championship," he said. "This is THIS team's one chance to win a national championship. We're not going to concentrate on anything other than beating Maryland. That's all we can do right now."
Before this season, Maryland and Notre Dame had not met on the lacrosse field since 2010. It's hard to say exactly when they will meet again as the Terrapins are leaving the ACC to join the new Big Ten lacrosse conference next spring. For the time being, however, it is as regular as any rivalry in the country with the Fighting Irish and Terrapins playing tomorrow for the third time in five weeks.
Maryland came out on top 12-8 when the teams met at Arlotta Stadium on April 19. Just six days later, the teams rematched in suburban Philadelphia with Notre Dame emerging as a 6-5 victor in an ACC semifinal game. The stakes will be higher on Saturday, but the foes will certainly be familiar.
Corrigan spoke on Friday of what of a challenge Maryland presents and what it will take to ensure an Irish victory tomorrow and a second trip to the national championship game in five years.
"They're a very good defensive team and you earn everything you get against them," he said of the only other team in the country to qualify for each of the last nine NCAA tournaments. "At the other end of the field, they have a lot of guys who can score and don't take bad shots. They force you to play 60 hard minutes and give you nothing over the course of those 60 hard minutes.
"We have to score goals. We haven't been successful scoring goals against them. For us, that means scoring some goals in transition; scoring some goals in the man-up; scoring some goals in the six-on-six and just being more efficient offensively than we have against them. And, at the same time, holding down their best players. Faceoffs are going to be important. In the first game, we got killed, and in the second game we evened out that part of the game, but it's going to be a challenge for us again."
Getting to Baltimore was not routine for Notre Dame but that may actually be a good omen. Irish teams have been mechanically delayed traveling to postseason appearances twice this year and came away victorious.
The men's soccer team's trip to Philadelphia in December for the NCAA College Cup was delayed a couple of hours while waiting for a new plane to arrive after mechanical issues with the first one. Notre Dame shook off the late arrival and then shook off both New Mexico and Maryland en route to the program's first national championship.
Later in December, the football team's charter suffered a technical glitch while on the tarmac at South Bend Airport forcing all but about a dozen members or so of the team's large Christmas-week travel party to wait for an hour and a half in a hangar while crews went to work inside the 747. Undeterred, Notre Dame would go on to defeat Rutgers, 29-16, in the Pinstripe Bowl.