All the legends of Syracuse lacrosse were present: Paul and Gary Gait, Todd Marevich, the Powell brothers, Jim Brown (yes, that Jim Brown), and countless other Hall of Famers. They, along with 9,073 of their friends went home embarrassed and sad after the Fighting Irish clobbered the Orangemen in the Carrier Dome, handing them their worst home defeat in 29 years.
As noted in our recent mid-season review, the ACC team that continued to improve in the second half would enter the NCAAs as the clear rival to Denver. The Irish took a huge step in that direction, and probably could have hung 20+ on Syracuse had they not taken their foot off the gas in the 4th quarter. Positives galore to recap today:
*Offense rolls: Wow, what a change from the first half of the season. Transition offense, already pretty good, was absolutely awesome today. The Irish scored at will. Even the 6-on-6 offense was excellent. The offensive star of the game was Matt Kavanaugh, with an astounding 9 points (3 goals, 6 assists). This was the Kavanaugh we have been waiting for an entire calendar year. Watching him bait Syracuse into doubling him so he could feed Ryder Garnsey (5 goals) and Mikey Wynne (4 goals) was indeed a pleasure. Sergio, Bobby Gray and Austin Gaiss also tallied goals, but Kyle Trolley gets a special mention. Trolley had a highlight double swim-move goal against Ohio State last week, had another highlight reel goal early in this game, and then served up a spectacular no-look low backhand dart in the closing seconds of the first half to bring misery to the crowd.
*The Ride continues to be glorious: Syracuse came into the game as the #1 clearing team in the country, with a .923 clear percentage. The Notre Dame Ride made them look like high schoolers, limiting them to 15 successes in 23 attempts, and as icing on the cake, the Irish scored on most of the turnovers. Going the other direction, the ND cleared 18 of 19, and more importantly, pushed hard to create unsettled chances. Shane Doss and Matt Landis were particularly effective in pushing the ball upfield for fast breaks. Whereas the Ride has been awesome all season, this new, aggressive Clear was a fantastic new wrinkle in the gameplan.
*Matt Landis is still the best player on the field: the Defense continued its excellent play against what was the no. 4 scoring offense in the country coming into the game, and once again, Landis shut down their top player. Syracuse's Dylan Donohue was a complete non-factor, scoring only one goal (Syracuse's only man-up chance) and logging zero assists. Landis smothered him all game, basically telling Donohue to turn his head and cough for 60 straight minutes. If pressed, I could come up with a nitpicky thing or two to criticize, but why ruin a good day.
*The Face-Off unit came to play: Syracuse's Ben Williams is one of the top faceoff specialists in the country, and P.J. Finley and Co. had been struggling. Something must have clicked in practice, as ND won 15-27, and rarely let Williams win clean when they didn't outright succeed. The wings played great and Corrigan mixed it up using John Travisano as a change of pace from FInley. Travisano won 3 of his 4 chances.
It was just a great total effort. Well done gentlemen!
*I was amused that ESPN had all sorts of interviews planned with the assembled Syracuse greats, with highlights and such, but they kept having to cut away for Irish goals.
*The announcers had the nerve to mock a misfired Perkovic shot, only to have Sergio get the ball right back and absolutely bury a shot that left a vapor trail. Sergio certainly has a keen sense of dramatic timing.
*Defenseman Garret Epple is back! He only played a few minutes, but it will be very nice to have Landis' main sidekick back on the field full time.
*Speaking of Matt Landis, it is nice that the buzz is starting to build to consider him for the Tewaarton. He is the best defenseman in the country, and probably the best in college for the past decade. With no offensive player laying clear claim to being the best, why can't we consider the player who shuts down the opponent's top player every week?
*Shane Doss was again stellar in goal with some fantastic saves to shut down fast breaks and keep Syracuse from developing any kind of momentum. Conor Kelly came in for some uneventful mop-up duty when Corrigan cleared the bench for the final minutes. Notably, Nick Koshansky did not play. It was not clear from the coverage why.
*The Maryland and Virginia wins are looking even better on the resume.
Next up for the Irish is their nemesis, #11 Duke, Sunday 4/10 @ noon, coverage on ESPNU. Notre Dame will need a plan for the colossal midfielder Miles Jones and their hot sniper Deemer Class.