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Previewing the 2019 Notre Dame Fighting Irish lacrosse team

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There’s a lot to be excited about in South Bend as the No. 11 Irish prepare for Week 1 of the season.

With National Signing Day in the books and the Irish basketball team effectively calling it quits, we’ve hit a bit of a lull in Notre Dame sports.

Fortunately, the Irish lacrosse team is set to begin its quest for the program’s first-ever national championship when it takes on Air Force in the inaugural game of the 2019 season. Notre Dame is ranked No. 11 in the country and was picked to finish second in the ACC in the preseason coaches’ poll, so now is a fantastic time to start following lacrosse in South Bend.

What to know about Notre Dame lacrosse

Before I get into the details of this year’s roster and schedule, I’d like to take a moment to introduce the program as a whole to our readers who may not have a strong foundational knowledge of Irish lacrosse. Here’s a few things you should know:

  • Kevin Corrigan is the head coach of the team and he’s basically a legend. He’s been at the school for more than 30 years and has led the Irish to 18 conference championships, 22 NCAA tournament appearances (including 12 consecutive heading into this year) and two national title game appearances. He’s unequivocally the greatest coach in the game to have never won a championship. Let’s hope that changes this year.
  • The Irish brand is defense. Year after year, the program churns out All-American goalies and elite defenders and simply shuts opposing offenses down consistently, regardless of how prolific they appear. For six consecutive years from 2007-2012, Notre Dame was top-5 in scoring defense. Straight filthy. While they’ve had a few hiccups here and there since then, the Irish are always going to make it difficult for opponents to score. Even their attackers are coached to make life a living hell for defenders to clear the ball after a turnover or missed shot.
  • Like other Notre Dame sports, the lacrosse program recruits nationally as well as anyone in the country. Get this: of the 55 players on the 2019 roster, there’s only one player from the state of Indiana and one from Illinois. The rest of the team is sourced from all over the country, including Florida, Utah, Maryland, California, Colorado, my home state of Texas and many other states.

Schedule

Instead of just posting the schedule and assuming you’ll do all the research necessary to understand what Notre Dame is up against in 2019, I’m going to list the team’s opponents and what I believe their football equivalent would be. Obviously, my comparisons won’t be perfect, but it’ll give casual readers a better idea of how good or bad the schools Notre Dame plays really are.

ND 2019 Lacrosse Schedule

Date Team Football equivalent One-sentence explanation
Date Team Football equivalent One-sentence explanation
02/16 vs Detroit Mercy Boston College Indefinitely mediocre
02/23 @ Richmond Boise State Wins games, but lousy opposition
03/03 vs Maryland Ohio State Super talented, one recent title
03/09 vs Denver Oregon Relatively new to sustained success
03/16 @ Virginia Oklahoma Perennial contender with rich history
03/19 @ Michigan Florida Atlantic New to D1, but not bad at all
03/23 vs Ohio State App State Even newer to D1, but formiddable
03/30 vs Syracuse Michigan Tons of championships and history
04/06 @ Duke Clemson Most success came recently
04/10 vs Marquette Texas State New to D1, limited success
04/14 vs Cornell Nebraska Decorated history, no recent titles
04/20 vs North Carolina Texas Solid all-around program with talent

The weird thing about Notre Dame’s schedule is—and I haven’t seen this in any other sport—the first 10 games you see are identical to the first 10 opponents the Irish faced last year, and in that order.

In those 10 games, the Irish went 6-4 with losses to Maryland, Michigan, Syracuse and Duke. The Irish almost dropped the opener against Detroit-Mercy, but held on for a 10-7 win. Of those 10 games, all but one were decided by four or fewer goals and three were decided by just one goal (Irish went 2-1 in those games), so if you enjoyed scraping by Ball State, Vanderbilt and Pitt, you’ll love this Notre Dame team, too.

Impact players

I’ll start this section by talking about a player who definitely won’t be making an impact this season (unfortunately for the Irish) and that’s senior attackman Ryder Garnsey. Notre Dame’s top scorer over the last two seasons (29 goals and 14 assists last year), Garnsey was ruled academically ineligible to play this spring back in January. His absence is the reason Notre Dame is ranked No. 11 in the preseason polls and not top-5.

With that said, let’s take a look at a few key players on this year’s roster.

Connor Morin, sophomore attackman

Without Garnsey, the Irish need someone to step up in a major way. That could be 6’3 sophomore Connor Morin, the No. 8 recruit from last year’s class. He didn’t see much playing time as a freshman, but there were a lot of seasoned veterans in front of him on that 2018 squad.

Now Morin has a chance to contribute in a major way and prove why he was so highly touted coming out of high school.

Bryan Costabile, junior midfielder

Just as the Irish would be ranked a lot higher if Garnsey was on the roster, Notre Dame likely wouldn’t crack the top-20 without junior midfielder Bryan Costabile. While Garnsey led the Irish in points last year, it was Costabile who led the team in scoring with 30 goals, which is pretty uncommon for a midfielder to lead the team in goals scored. Either way, he’s going to be called on to score even more in 2019, and the Preseason First Team All-American is undoubtedly capable of delivering, like he did with this nasty goal vs. Duke:

Brendan Gleason, senior midfielder

Another midfielder with exceptional stick skills, Brendan Gleason is coming off a fantastic season where he tallied 19 goals and 14 assists, making him last year’s third-leading scorer. His performance in 2018, plus another offseason of improvement earned him a spot on the Second Team All-American list.

Drew Schantz, senior short stick defensive midfielder

Though he doesn’t always show up in the stat sheet, Schantz is one of the country’s premier defensive midfielders. At 6’0, Schantz is a physical player with the speed to stay in front of the country’s best attackers. He’s also fully capable of contributing on the offensive end when he needs to, and he can do amazing things like score from midfield.

Arden Cohen, sophomore defenseman

One of the rising stars of this Notre Dame program, New York City product Arden Cohen is a beast with a pole in his hand. At 6’3, 200 pounds, Cohen is rarely out-muscled or out-run when it comes to chasing ground balls. As a freshman, he fielded 39 of them, good for third-most on the team. He also forced 10 turnovers, earning his way onto the Honorable Mention list for Inside Lacrosse’s Preseason All-Americans.

Matt Schmidt, sophomore goalie

Notre Dame has been referred to as Tight End U, but in lacrosse, the Irish make a strong case for Goalie U. Matt Schmidt was tasked with carrying on a legacy of great goaltending as a freshman, getting thrown into the flames against one of the nation’s toughest schedules. His save percentage wasn’t ideal at 47.5 percent (you want to be above 55 percent or so in college lacrosse) but he stood his ground through all 15 games and helped the Irish to a 9-6 record with 106 saves, three forced turnovers, 20 ground balls and one intercepted pass.

Chasing a title

Even with the suspension of its best player, Notre Dame still has a chance to make a run at a national championship with the star-studded defense and midfield. How far this team goes will be determined by the play of the attackmen, who absolutely must establish themselves as legitimate threats from the very start of the season. With a good mix of experienced veterans and talented youngsters, the Irish are fully capable of competing with every team in the country.

Before Garnsey was suspended,the Irish were picked to finish second in the absolutely loaded ACC conference. If there was a revote, Notre Dame would probably slide to third or fourth, but with one of the country’s best coaches, three All-Americans and a tough, physical style of play, you’d be foolish to count this Irish team out.

Looking forward to enjoying this season with y’all.