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Notre Dame Men's Lacrosse vs. North Carolina: NCAA quarterfinal preview

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The Irish look to exorcise some demons and get past the only team that seems to have an answer for their defense

Winslow Townson/Getty Images

Notre Dame vs. UNC @ Ohio Stadium, Columbus, OH, Sunday, May 22 @ noon, ESPN2

The April 23 matchup in Chapel Hill will forever be associated with the epic late collapse that let to the Irish's 17-15 loss.  The last seven minutes or so were brutal.  It is, however, important to remember that the Irish played 53 or so minutes of great offensive lacrosse up until then, led by Sergio Perkovic (4,0), Mikey Wynne (3,0) and Matt Kavanagh (0,3).

The disaster, to our eyes, can be reduced to a bad patch at faceoff, some confusion in transition by the D-midfield, and a sub-par day from Shane Doss.  The latter two are not likely to be repeated, and Finley, Travisano and the wings have improved significantly in the past two weeks.  In our recap of the game, we did note the seeds of collapse were evident earlier in some sloppy passing and ineffective rides, but the Irish have done a lot to clean up their stickwork in the past two weeks.

Perhaps more importantly, the offense is much different that what we saw at Chapel Hill.  As effective as that 15-goal offense was,  giving Garnsey a more prominent role over Lubowicky has been extremely effective, and there's no reason to believe it will not be as effective against UNC.  Plus, the 2nd and 3rd midfield lines are finding ways to contribute.  This is particularly important against a fast team like UNC where proper rest will be critical for good 4th quarter performance.

If we had to specify an area of concern, it is surprisingly with the defense.  Even though the April game was largely seen as successful but for the last few minutes, we note that UNC scored 10 goals in three quarters, which is an awful lot against this D, and historically UNC has scored a lot against the Irish, having scored 17 in April and 15 against basically the same defense last year.  We haven't been able to figure out how this is happening, and the film doesn't present an answer, particularly since Landis (2ct, 3gb) and Epple (6gb) thoroughly dominated their one-on-one matchups.  A Steve "Agent Zero" Pontrello (among our favorite nom de guerre), A Luke Goldstock and M Michael Tagliaferri are all excellent and very fast, and we imagine will continue to trouble the defense.  If the D can reduce their effectiveness just a bit, things should be OK.

We don't think anything will need to get done to motivate the Irish for this game.  #GoIrish

Game note:

*Again, it's tournament time, so the only thing to do is survive and advance. No need for style points.

Other:

*After the Irish seal their win, be sure to watch the following Towson v. Loyola game.  The winner will be Notre Dame's opponent.

*UND game notes.

*We're curious as to how much double-poling of faceoffs will occur.  It's been a great tactic the past few weeks with all the Ds and LSMs taking a turn, but it seemed to put the Irish in a bind in that UNC run.

*We recommend to UNC against falling down on defense when Sergio has the ball.   In viewing this vine, someone should ask the remaining Air Force defensemen why they were running away.  If you were wondering what the hardest shot in the country looks like, here you go.