Notre Dame's Men's Lacrosse team looks everything like the top team's in the nation, and showed it last week in Ann Arbor.
The Irish unleashed a 7-goal fury in the second quarter, blowing out Michigan, 17-8 to move to 2-0 on the season heading into today's contest against Dartmouth.
The Irish started slow, as Michigan came out of the gate with upsetting the Irish in their eyes. The Wolverines scored first, too, with Ian King putting one past starter Shane Doss.
The Irish answered near the end of the quarter, with Brendan Collins getting on the board and Matt Kavanagh scoring right before the quarter expired. Still, the #2-team in the nation only up one goal had Michigan fired up.
Then the Irish went to work.
With a combination of attack play and proficiency at the Face-off X, the Irish brutalized the Michigan defense for 7 straight goals. The Wolverines defense had no answer to Matt Kavanagh and the Irish attack and Nick Ossello and P.J. Finley were exceptional at the face-off X to put the game out of reach.
The attack unit was particularly worth noting here. As a clear strength of Notre Dame, it isn't surprising that the Irish relied heavily on them. However, their output was simply impressive. Of the Irish's 17 goals, 11 of them were scored by attack men.
The second half was more of the same. Though Michigan played inspired, the Irish were simply too much.
The Irish defense roughed up Michigan's clears, forcing six failed clears and 17 turnovers and holding them to below 10 goals for the first time all season. They also kept star attack man Ian King in check. Though he scored four goals, only one of them was in the first half and the rest were after the Irish were way up.
In net, Shane Doss, starting in the place of Conor Kelly, was also impressive, netting 13 saves and only surrendering 8 goals.
Some thoughts after looking at the stats and (sort of) listening to Michigan's radio broadcast.
Michigan decided to guard Matt Kavanagh and Mikey Wynne straight up and it didn't work
The Wolverines, going into this game, had to have been a little concerned about the emergence of Mikey Wynne as a force in the Irish attack. However, the known commodity here at Notre Dame is Kavanagh. Despite that, Michigan decided to man-up on all the Irish attack with minimal sliding support from the midfield. The Michigan radio broadcasting team kept making mentions of that fact, as did Lacrosse Film Room (@laxfilmroom on twitter) and other live-tweeters. I also was able to glean that a large amount of ND's offense was generated from attack drives from the wing, and Michigan had zero answer to it.
Side note: for those who were (attempting) to listen to the Michigan radio broadcast, they had technical problems for most of the first half and into the second, but I give them a ton of credit for sticking with it and getting audio on air. Kudos to them. Honestly. Anything is better than Nothing. We've all been there!
Notre Dame showed why they're one of the best in the nation
You know that phrase, "complete victory?" We normally equate that with examples like last year's Super Bowl, Bruce Willis in Die Hard, the 2014 Michigan football game (#rememberthe6) or how I feel after eating a Chipotle burrito. In this case, the Irish controlled all parts of their contest. They had more shots, more ground balls, more face-off wins, a better clearing percentage, more forced turnovers and less turnovers. After struggling against Georgetown, Nick Ossello regained his face-off mojo, going 10-19. P.J. Finley was even more impressive, going 6-8 from the X. Doss was impressive as was the back line defense and I've already written about the offense. My only cause for concern is the Irish's 5 penalties. Clearly they were physical, but need to show some restraint, because teams like Duke and Denver will eat the Irish alive if they get 5 man-up opportunities in a game.
In addition, four Irish players were named this week to the Tewaaraton Trophy Watch List: Matt Kavanagh, Matt Landis, Jack Near and Sergio Perkovic. With those four players, Notre Dame is tied with Syracuse with the most players on the initial list. A sign of the quality and sheer amount of talent for the Irish.
Doss should start vs. Dartmouth, but Kelly needs to see the field
My benchmark for lacrosse goalies is for them to make 10+ saves a game. It is a pretty good starting point when discerning if a goalie had a good game or not. In Shane Doss' case, his 13 saves were more than enough for the Irish and the defensive end looked, on paper, much better than the Irish's contest against Georgetown. If Doss can maintain this type of output, he could easily see himself between the pipes for the rest of the year. For now, I'll settle for him starting and playing the majority of the game against Dartmouth, but Kelly also needs work. Hopefully, we'll get a shot at seeing both on today.
Speaking of which...
Let's talk about Dartmouth
Dartmouth comes into South Bend with a surprising 0-1 record. Not surprising that they've lost the one game per se, but that they've only played one game. They also have a new coach in Brendan Callahan, who was a long-time assistant at Lehigh after the Big Green stumbled to a 2-10 record last season. Despite the change, it appears that Dartmouth is still mired in offensive and defensive struggles. Their lone game was a 15-5 shellacking at the hands of Ohio State. Using the Transitive Property of Lacrosse, Ohio State lost their season opener to Detroit, who lost 15-6 to Michigan, whom the Irish just beat 17-8.
So this game might be ugly.
On attack, Dartmouth started the trio of Wiley Osborne, Adam Fishman and Evan Key. None recorded a goal or assist against Ohio State, though Osborne had 3 shots and Fishman and Key had one each. Still, if none of your attackmen record a point, it's not a good sign. They might be able to scrounge some goals against Notre Dame's defense, but I just don't see it, as Notre Dame's aggressive style could put Dartmouth on their heels.
Midfield is more of the same based on the Big Green's first game. Jack Connolly, Robert Osgood and Phil Hession started at midfield and only Hession, who was 8-18 from the face-off X, scored a goal. Hession also had 7 ground balls, so logic would seem to indicate that his face-off style tends to lean towards sweeping to himself. 2nd line miss Don Stephan and Taylor Topousis were more successful, combining for three scores on the Buckeyes. Still, the Big Green's middies didn't do much and Hession was only 8-18 at the X, which is definitely something the Irish can exploit.
Defensively, Dartmouth went with Christian Guinchard, Max Randall and Austin Duncan at stick and the three were ineffectual. Only Guinchard caused a turnover (just one) and they got torched for 15 goals. The Big Green struggled to control standout Buckeyes attack man Jesse King, who netted five goals, so the tandem of Kavanagh and Wynne could pay off for the Irish.
In net, Dartmouth played two goalies, Blair Friedensohn (11 goals against, 6 saves) and Colin Heffernan (4 goals against, 3 saves). Outside of both being built like linebackers (Heffernan is 6'7!), both struggled against the Buckeyes.
It is really hard to envision a scenario where Dartmouth upsets the Irish. Essentially, Notre Dame would have to struggle at the face-off X, have weak play at goal and struggle offensively. I can't see any of that happening. Dartmouth is a team coming off a rough season with a bad start to 2015. While the Irish struggle at home, this one shouldn't be close and will be a game that will continue to push Kavanagh up the list of the Tewaaraton finalists. Irish fans should be cheering often and bench players should see some time this game. Irish win going away.
Notre Dame 20 Dartmouth 5