A rough regular season for the Duke Blue Devils continued as Notre Dame had four players net hat tricks as the #1 Irish won 15-10 in a game that wasn't nearly as close as the score indicated.
Here are some quick thoughts on the game before we jump into Marquette:
This game epitomizes why the Irish are the best team in the nation
I've looked at the polls, which overwhelmingly have the Irish at #1, but it's not unanimous. I just don't get it. The Irish have the nation's #2 SoS, #1 RPI, a top-10 offense, a top-15 defense and an offensive efficiency that would make anyone swoon.
Against Duke, the Irish showed everyone why they deserve every bit the #1 ranking. Playing a top-10 opponent on the road a week after upsetting the #1 team in 2 overtimes, the Irish controlled essentially every facet of the game. Duke did outshoot the Irish, but lacked the efficiency to keep pace with a relentless Notre Dame attack.
All three Notre Dame attackmen, Matt Kavanagh, Conor Doyle and Mikey Wynne had hat tricks, as did Nick Ossello. Duke's poor defense reared its ugly head against the Irish, and they had no answer for the Irish offense.
And defensively, the Irish completely shut down Myles Jones and Deemer Class, holding them to a goal apiece. This forced Duke to deviate from their offensive strategy and rely more heavily on their attack, which isn't quite there yet.
As an aside, don't bury the Blue Devils yet. They're a young team who will be a force in a couple seasons. No joke. This will be a scary team by next season.
Shane Doss might be the best goalie in college lacrosse at the moment
I've played goalie in lacrosse. Not my thing. It's a huge mind-over-matter position. You have to see the ball, anticipate shots and then deal with the impact point-blank. Blegh.
Some however, embrace the position, and do it well. Shane Doss is one of them. The Irish netminder had a whopping 17 saves on 46 shots while only allowing 10 Duke goals to pass by him. Doss was on fire, making point blank saves and distance saves. Granted, he had one obvious goof in the second half after allowing Bruckner to pick up a rebound but that doesn't reflect how well he played.
When you look at national rankings for goalies and you see keepers with high saves, they're usually on teams that give up a lot of shots. Notre Dame, being a top-15 defense, doesn't normally do that. That means that the goalie for the Irish has to be particularly more adept at his position because while he might not see a lot of shots, he will need to make the saves count. Doss is doing that and more.
P.J. Finley is on fire right now
After saving the Irish's hopes against Syracuse a week before, Finley took the job by the reins and taking control. Irish head coach Kevin Corrigan had Finley take every faceoff against Duke and Finley came out on top, winning 16-29 for a 55% average. It really does make a difference having that position under control.
Now, onto Marquette:
Who: #1 Notre Dame vs. #15/16 Marquette
Where: Arlotta Stadium - Notre Dame, Indiana
When: 4pm ET
TV? Online only it appears! You can watch it on the WatchESPN app and on ESPN3.
Marquette is one of those teams that looks really imposing until you get into the nitty-gritty of the numbers. The Golden Eagles started the season off in grand fashion, stunning a ranked Lehigh team on the road. Marquette would go on to roll to a 7-0 record before being upended by Georgetown. Since then, they've split their remaining three games to fall to a 9-2 record and a second spot in the Big East conference behind Denver.
What helps teams like Marquette is that since they are a young program, the roster has played with each other for multiple seasons. Like the opposite of the Kentucky basketball team. That allows for them to generate upsets against more-talented teams, like their 10-9 shocker over Ohio State. However, their lack of superior talent can come back to haunt them, as it did in a 9-3 glob of goo loss to Bellarmine.
At attack, Marquette is led by former Fairfield attackman Jordan Greenfield (26g, 14a), who is a grad student at Marquette. Alongside him plays Conor Gately (20g, 10a) and Kyran Clarke (7g, 9a). Greenfield's experience probably means that he draws Landis and Epple will get Gately. Glazener should be able to handle Clarke, who is more of a feeder than anything else. Another observation of this group. They commit a solid share of penalties. Greenfield has 7 on the season and Gately and Clarke have 2 and 3 respectfully. Bizarre, but if they ride hard, they can commit slash and hold penalties if the ref is feeling zealous enough to toss a flag.
The Marquette midfield is led by Kyle Whitlow (17g, 6a), Ryan McNamara (16g, 6a) and Blane Fleming (10g, 2a). All are solid and physical and will pose a similar test to the Irish that teams like Georgetown showed. Marquette doesn't play the deepest roster either, which means that the Irish will see these three quite a bit. In addition, they also could see second liners Jacob Richard (3g, 3a) and Andy DeMichiei (3g, 2a).
Defensively, Marquette plays a back line of B.J. Grill (17 gb, 8 caused turnovers), Dan Mojica (22 ground balls, 5 caused turnovers) and Logan Tousaw (15 gb, 15 caused turnovers). This isn't a particularly big back line, but it is a disruptive one. They play high risk. They will give up points, but also generate a lot of turnovers. This is also the exact same crew that faced the Irish last season. They also held Kavanagh in check last season, making him an assist machine.
In net, Jimmy Danaher has a respectable 8.78 goals against average and also averages almost 10 saves per game with a near 53% save percentage. He's a good goalie, but I'll explain why that may not be telling the whole story in my prediction.
At faceoffs, Marquette leans on K.C. Kennedy (79-171) and his 46% win percentage. They'll also have Owen Weselak (19-41) and Tyler Gilligan (5-9) take the occasional faceoff too.
Pain? No, but close.
Marquette is a team that cruised to a 7-0 record on the backs of bad teams and some fortunate bounces. While their 10-9 win over Ohio State is impressive, it is also one of their two wins on the season over a team with a winning record. Sound familiar? This team squeaked out one goal wins over Lehigh (before we found out they weren't too great), Hofstra and Villanova and took Jacksonville to the brink, winning by two. While impressive that this team knows how to win, their Bellarmine game tells the story to me.
Marquette lives on going 50-50 or near to it at the face-off X and relies on disruption to get points. They generate turnovers and use them to generate points. But if they run into an efficient team that wins faceoffs and controls their possessions, they are in trouble.
Oh hey, Notre Dame. Whats up?
I think that while the Irish are not rested, neither is Marquette, as they played a game on Saturday as well, a 14-12 win over St. Johns. I think the Irish will control faceoffs and play and blow Marquette out of the water in the first half. I think that Finley will control the X and the Irish will rely on their middies, as they did last year, to push them to a victory. I can see a big game for Nick Ossello as well as Conor Doyle. If Marquette decides to shut down Kavanagh again, Wynne could benefit as he always does. While this game might be close, I just don't see it being that way for long. Irish win.
Notre Dame 15 Marquette 3