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ND lacrosse: Irish overcome sluggish start, dominate Detroit-Mercy in season opener

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Defense was relentless, Costabile was exceptional, but there’s still lots of room for improvement

Last season, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish lacrosse team opened the season with a matchup against a significantly less talented Detriot-Mercy team and, in spite of sloppy, undisciplined and overall uninspired play from the Irish, they managed to pull out a win.

On Saturday, it looked Notre Dame was in for a similar style of game with about five minutes remaining in the first quarter. Detroit-Mercy had just scored its third consecutive goal, putting the Titans in front of the Irish, 3-2.

Notre Dame responded with a couple of goals in succession, but Detroit-Mercy tied the game up at 4-4 midway through the second quarter. At that point, I was pretty sure it was going to be yet another close game against a team the Irish should be blowing out (sound familiar, football fans?).

But there was an air of confidence and calmness on the Notre Dame sidelines and the players seemed to know they were just a few plays away from breaking the game wide open.

Sure enough, the Irish went on a 12-0 run that extended into the fourth quarter, leaving the Titans scoreless for nearly 32 consecutive minutes. Notre Dame surrendered a couple of late goals, but ultimately cruised to a 19-6 victory, showing the top-20 poll voters they’re fully capable of scoring in bunches even without star attackman Ryder Garnsey.

WHERE THE IRISH SHINED

Just about everyone looked great Saturday, putting to bed the offensive uncertainties plaguing the team over the last month. Junior midfielder Bryan Costabile matched his career high in goals with five, adding one assist to his stat sheet for good measure. Moving over to the attack position, Brendan Gleason had a terrific day, recording a hat trick on six shots with no turnovers.

You also have to give credit to some of the standout freshmen who came in and immediately made a noticeable impact, starting with attackman Griffin Westlin, who scored two goals on two shots, including this nasty BTB:

Quinn McCahon also found the back of the net for the first time in his college career with a textbook fake and score, which you’ll see in the thread below that also features other first-time goal scorers:

WHERE THE IRISH LACKED

It’s tough to find weaknesses in such a dominating performance, but one stat that scares me is the faceoff percentage. Notre Dame won 16 while Detroit-Mercy won 11. The Irish have a brutal schedule up ahead with far better faceoff specialists, so only outperforming a team like Detroit-Mercy by five faceoff wins is a little unnerving. That’s something Notre Dame struggled with last year, too, and the team needs to find a reliable specialist sooner rather than later. Charles Leonard was supposed to be the guy, but after going just 11-20, coach Kevin Corrigan gave some other players a chance. Kyle Hyland went a perfect 3-3, Junior Almeida went 2-2 and Jacob Frane went 0-1. Definitely something to follow going forward.

GAME MVP

You have to give the nod to Bryan Costabile, who will likely be the recipient of this award many more times before the season ends. Matching a career-high five goals in a season-opening statement game, that’s what you want to see out of your leaders.

The most valuable unit of the game, however, would go to the defense. 15 forced turnovers and just six goals surrendered, that’s all you can ask for out of your back lines. Corrigan will take that 10 times out of 10.

LOOKING AHEAD

The Irish travel to Virginia to take on Richmond this Saturday at noon, which will be streamed live on ESPN+. The Spiders are a formidable opponent, posting a 1-1 record with their only loss coming against No. 3 Maryland, 10-9.