In one of the wildest men's lacrosse seasons, perhaps ever, we saw our Fighting Irish hold the #1 ranking for long stretches over the season, but ultimately saw them depart in the NCAA quarterfinals at the hands of UNC. Certainly not the end we had hoped for, but it was a fantastic season to observe. These student-athletes should be proud of what they have done and accomplished.
Season video review:
The year saw another great performance by the Irish defense, and as the season progressed, saw the return to health of the great Matt Kavanagh. Like every NCAA team this year, the Irish had flaws that never quite got worked out and in the end contributed to the season's demise. Included among them were challenges with the faceoff unit and a stale 6-on-6 offensive set that, while showing occasional brilliance, didn't gain sufficient consistency.
We'll end this season with good memories of the likes of Eddie Lubowicki, Trevor Brosco, the toe drags and swim moves of Kyle Trolley, and the contributions of Jack Sheridan, Bobby Gray, and many others. We are glad to have had the chance to watch them develop and play.
Once again, Notre Dame graduates and excellent crop of students and leaders, who have impressed in the classroom, with their performance at internships with the business community and on the field. Chief among them were the captains on the field:
The Tewaaraton finalist, two-time ACC defensive player of the year, defending Defensive Player of the Year, and in our opinion, the best close defenseman in play in college lacrosse for at least a decade, was also an excellent student, receiving recognition on the ACC All-Academic Team, and the Weaver-James-Corrigan Award representing an honorary postgraduate scholarship from the ACC. Matt Landis was selected third in the MLL draft by the Florida Launch, where he will play alongside our favorite college defenseman not playing for Notre Dame: Marquette's Liam Byrnes.
Notre Dame's exit from the NCAA tournament may deny us the chance of seeing if he could ultimately win the Tewaaraton Trophy, but he was a deserving nominee. It was a pleasure to watch him play and we hope to see him on the field again in the MLL. Our last memory of him in a Notre Dame uniform is an endearing one: Landis being helped off the field by Kavanagh and Glazener near the end of quarterfinal as a result of him being hammered after a shot. It is an image encapsulated the leadership of this group.
Like his defensive partner, Matt Landis, the Californian Glazener was an excellent student graduating as an economics and pre-health double major with recognition on the ACC All-Academic Team.. Edwin Glazener, while know to most as the bagpiper who leads the team onto the field, is probably on of the most gifted on-field communicators in the college game. We wish more young players had the chance to observe him on the field to see how it needs to get done.
To our understanding graduation will take him to the business world following-up on his internship with Citibank. We know he will do well.
Long Island's Kavanagh ends his Notre Dame career at our near the top of every offensive category, and graduates as probably the best offensive player ever for the Fighting Irish. This is true even with his struggles with injury that included two hip surgeries. Some may wonder what might have been for the "King of Clutch," but his was an amazing college career. He was a Tewaaraton Award finalist, All-American, All-Conference and showed great leadership on the field. Most importantly to the cynics on Team ND-Atl, he single-handedly changed our generally negative perception of attackmen with his ferocious commitment to the Ride. He is no fancy-pantsed stick twirler, as even at 5'9" he would do everything he could to hammer the opposition trying to clear the ball.
Matt Kavanagh was selected 5th in the MLL draft by the Denver Outlaws.
The goalie and graduate student at the Mendoza College of Business and member of the Rosenthal Leadership Academy, may not have seen the field as much as he had earlier in his career (where he was integral to several Final Four appearances), but here at ND-Atl we are very pleased to write about the co-Captain. His leadership qualities are evident to all watching Notre Dame play, but he is adored by the young fans of the team, as win or lose, he always had something nice to say to the kids watching the game. With these gestures he has done as much to #growthegame as his starting counterparts.
To our understanding he will enter the business community upon leaving Notre Dame, where we know his leadership qualities will bring him great success.
Our look to 2017:
Replacing the likes of Landis and Kavanagh will be no easy task, but the team will still be stacked.
Goalie Shane Doss will return for his senior year and will be backed up by the promising Owen Molloy and Michael Marchese. Doss will enter the 2017 as one of the top goalies in the country and perhaps as the preseason favorite for the Kelly Award.
At attack, the Irish return Mikey Wynne, perhaps the top crease-man in the country, along with the fantastic Ryder Garnsey. We are curious to see who will fill the spot left vacant by Matt Kavanagh, and Notre Dame will return only a few other returning pure attackmen: Tyler Ruhl, Anthony Marini, Liam Kennedy, Zack Bartolo and Jack Beare. In Wynne and Garnsey, the Irish are returning thier #1 and #2 goal scorers, so the foundation is there, but there is the question of who among the returning players or incoming freshmen will take on the role of distributing the ball and generating assists. Notre Dame has plenty of players who can put the ball into the net, but it is unclear who will get it to them. The addition of incoming freshman Brian Willets will add some intrigue to this discussion.
Kevin Corrigan rolled at least three lines at midfield along with a solid rotation on the defensive midfield side. The Irish will be returning a lot of experience and production. The conversation will begin with Sergio Perkovic, perhaps the most electric player returning for 2017. He will begin the season in the discussion for the Tewaaraton along with Brown's Dylan Molloy and Johns Hopkins' Stanwick. The devastating impact of his shot, his ability to play both ways, and his developing dodging skills will make him the player to watch. What will be of interest is how much of a passing game he develops in the off season. Some criticize Perkovic for the relatively few assists he generates (not us, mind you), so in the absence of another know distributor his role for next season will be a topic of conversation. We feel the Perkovic question is not his passing, but rather his consistency. He still has too many games where is nowhere to be found in the boxscore. Sergio is so big and shoots so hard that when he is putting the ball on the cage the defense has no choice but to over commit on defense, leaving others wide open or leaving Sergio open to roll to his left.
Pierre Byrne, Brendan Collins, Brendon Gleason, Ben Pridemore, Timmy Phillips and others will compete to join Perkovic on the offensive midfield lines. This group is deep and earned a lot of playing experience over the season. They were still a bit rough around the edges, but the showed a lot of creativity and promise. This bunch may be the most exciting to watch, and will include incoming freshman Bryan Costabile coming off his play with Team USA at the under-19 world championships.
At LSM, the Irish will have an embarrassment of riches with John Sexton, Hugh Crance (also playing with Team USA under-19), Atlanta's Charlie Trense, Patrick Hadley, and some promising incoming freshmen. ND-Atl 2.0 is of the hope this will allow ND to develop a long-pole attack like Brown has develop at face-off wing and in transition. Sexton clearly has shown promise in this regard, but it will take a rather significant change in offensive philosophy to adopt many of Brown's strategies. We know ND will have the raw material to do it.
With the hopeful return from injury of Nick Koshansky, the defensive midfield will have a strong group with Austin Gaiss and Drew Schantz. This will continue to be an area of strength for the Irish.
At close defense, the graduation of Landis, Glazener and Sheridan will leave a big hole. It's a good thing Gerry Byrne basically prints defensemen in a back room somewhere as only the excellent Garrett Epple will be returning with much playing time. Pat Healy earned a lot of time towards the end of the season, and there are no shortage of bodies on the roster with many more coming in the incoming freshman class. One must assume Epple will take leadership of this unit, and with that an expectation that the defensive style may become more aggressive as the more "reserved" players have graduated. We have grown accustomed to a regular lineup of great defensemen, but in 2017 we will certainly be curious who will be part of the next crop as it is unclear at this point.
Finally, at faceoff-X the Irish return both P.J. Finley and John Travisano. This unit struggled mightily at times and is a area in need of great improvement. These comments are to a degree unfair to Finley and Travisano as they both excel in the style they are asked to play, but it is a style that is not always competitive against the modern faceoff specialists like Baptiste, Rowe, Williams and Kelly, all of whom the Irish are likely to see at least once next year. The good news is that both Finley and Travisano are the preferred body type for the position and clearly have talent. Another year of experience may be all that is necessary to improve this category, but the coaching staff may need to look for more ideas withing the roster to bring the faceoff success rate up to standard.
All this leaves three basic questions facing the 2017 team:
1. Who will emerge to generate assists? We like what we see in Pierre Byrne but there are several who have shown promise. A sub-issue to this questions is how will offensive philosophy change in the post-Kavanagh world? It is clear ND cannot trot out the same offensive style and expect to be competitive. Not because there isn't talent (far from it!) but because the stars of 2017 do not fit the stock setup of 2015 and 2016.
2. What will the post-Landis and Glazener defense look like? We believe this will surprise a lot of people accustomed to seeing a certain type of Irish Defense. The fellas left on the roster are stylistically very different from Landis and Glazener, particularly their leader Garrett Epple, who was much more the enforcer than his linemates of this year.
3. What is the solution at faceoff? Notre Dame in 2016 was not a very efficient offense, so the loss of extra possessions was particularly devastating. Notre Dame's success will be reduced to a math equation, requiring a substantial increase in faceoff win percentage and a more assist-oriented efficient offense to take advantage of those extra possessions. We hope an understanding develops among the coaching staff that a great ride does not negate a substandard faceoff unit. If anything, these units should be complementary.
Again, losing all-time greats such as Landis and Kavanagh is going to be tough, but at least ND is not alone in this problem within the ACC. Duke graduates Myles Jones and Deemer Class, Syracuse graduates Brandon Mullins and Dylan Donahue, and North Carolina will at least lose Steve Pontrello, and Virginia loses James Pannell and their hall-of-fame coach. Of course there are teams like Denver who will lose basically nobody. Regardless, 2017 will again be promising for the Irish!
Edit 9:00 May 28:. Landis and Perkovic announced as 1st team All-Americans, Sexton and Kavanagh on the 2nd team, Doss on 3rd.