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Notre Dame Men’s Lacrosse: First scrimmage is in the books

There was a lot to take in, here is what we saw against the Falcons of Air Force...

They boys get ready before the Air Force scrimmage
Photo Credit: Fred Assaf

Lacrosse season is officially here and we could not be more excited. Let’s go!! The clock has started and our “Time to be Great” mantra is in full swing...

On a cold, sunny Sunday in South Bend, the 2024 Fighting Irish got their preseason lacrosse schedule underway with a spirited matchup in the warm confines of the Loftus Center against the Air Force Academy. It was the first of three scrimmages for Notre Dame this season (Utah on Jan 27th and Detroit on Feb 4th), with each of them giving our squad a chance to get better, while also giving the coaches a chance to see different players and different combinations of player groupings. I was in attendance with my son and it was an awesome afternoon getting our first look at the defending national champions.

Shout out to some of the folks I had the chance to see and catch up with while in the Bend: David Brogan (and if you don’t follow David on Twitter, you are missing out as he might be the biggest ND lacrosse fan out there), Fred and Martha Assaf, Adam Ramsey and Matt Walker. And certainly looking forward to many more meet ups with folks as we get the season moving along.

One other quick note, neat to see Will Corrigan (ND lacrosse class of 2015) back at Notre Dame as he is now an assistant coach for Air Force having spent the the last four years on the Harvard coaching staff. Sure that was a fun day for the whole Corrigan family.

Below here I will give my thoughts on what we saw, how the team looked and what I feel I noticed from the matchup. Oh, and btw, in case you missed it, Inside Lacrosse came out with their preseason media poll and the Irish are ranked #1.

Lineups and early thoughts from the scrimmage:

I had the final score at around 17 or 18 to 7. It was hard to keep track as the score reset after each quarter.

And there was a LOT to see in the five quarters we witnessed on Sunday, but while we can learn a lot, it is still early and sure the coaching staff were the ones who learned the most from what took place on the field. So while my eyes saw one thing, sure someone else saw another so take everything I am laying out within the confines of my thoughts / opinions.

Starting Lineup:

Faceoff - Will Lynch, Ben Ramsey, Will Donovan

Midfield - Reilly Gray, Eric Dobson, Jalen Seymour

Close Defense - Marco Napolitano, Shawn Lyght, Chris Conlin, Liam Entenmann

Attack - Fulton Bayman, Chris Kavanagh, Jake Taylor

That is a pretty impressive group right there and the career minutes logged across this crew would rival probably any other team in the country. Only one freshman in this group (Lyght) and tons of experience across these thirteen players.

Second Groupings:

Faceoff - Colin Hagstrom, BJ Burlace, Carter Parlette

Midfield - Bryce Walker, Christian Alacqua, Max Busenkell

Attack - Will Maheras, Jeffery Ricciardelli, Devon McLane

Defense - Will Gallagher, Ross Burgmaster, Nate Schwitzenberg, Alex Zepf

I might not have all this right, but this was the general gist of what I think I remember seeing across some of the second units that came out (there was lots of substituting going on).

Other Players we noticed out there (at least I am pretty sure I saw most of these folks, but I did put my notebook down later so didn’t write it all down):

SSDM - Danny Parker, Nick Harris

LSM - Ronan Doherty

Close Defense - Sam Assaf, Conrad Delgado, Declan Cooke, Jake Sommer

Attack - Casey Doyle, Griffin Grant

Midfield - Fisher Finley, Logan Gutzwiller, Tyler Buchner, Jordan Faison, Max Manyak, Michael Lynch, Jack Conroy, Michael Ridgway, Ryan Sforzo, Thomas Porell, Jake Bonomi

Faceoff - Christian Gallagher, Andrew Greenspan, Pat Eilers

Goalie - Mick Lee, Thomas Ricciardelli

Tons of players saw playing time on Sunday, a great opportunity to prove themselves and showcase what they bring to the table for the Irish.

Starting Specialty Units:

Man-Up - McLane, Kavanagh, Taylor, Ricciardelli, Dobson, Bayman

Man-Down - Conlin, Lyght, Napolitano, Donovan, Ramsey

A lot of what I would have expected across these groupings and while sure we will see some tweaks across these units (namely Pat Kavanagh on man-up), this is probably a lot of what we can expect here.

Some Notes and Observations:

No Pat Kavanagh (he was in warmups) and no Will Angrick during the scrimmage. Not sure on their full statuses, sure we will learn more later as these next two scrimmages take place.

Liam Entenmann: best goalie in the country. Yep.

The close defense of Napolitano, Conlin and Lyght looked really good out there. Obviously we know what we have in Marco and Chris as they know the system and they are both unbelievably sound defenders. Shawn did not look out of place one bit and he is long and rangy with his 6-3 frame. He would follow his man far out, but I did not see him throw a ton of checks when he got further away from the cage. Sure it was a little bit of feeling things out in his first game (and not wanting to make mistakes), but in the end I think it says a lot about him as a player that the coaching staff put him out there to start. And I did not really notice any big missteps on his part, also a good sign for a freshman getting his first collegiate reps. He’s a stud.

Good to see Ross Burgmaster, BJ Burlace and Will Gallagher get early looks at close defense. I am sure the three of them would like to lock down one of those spots, although if it is Lyght, sure we will see at least Ross get some good run at LSM. Additionally, Burlace got some run on the faceoff wing and he could see time there.

Will Donovan continues to be one of the best LSMs in the country. Enough said.

Jake Taylor was in midseason form scoring three early goals from close inside. His feel for the game and his positioning near the goal is second to none in all of college lacrosse.

Fulton Bayman continues to just make plays. If Pat is not able to start the season, he will be the third attackman and we can be confident he will do a good job. And no matter what, he will see the field this year.

Will Maheras made some great statements out there on Sunday. He is quick and he scored two goals, good on him for stepping up his game as he enters his sophomore year.

Jeffery Ricciardelli continues to have some of the best hands in lacrosse. Get him the ball in front of the net and just watch him fake four times before he scores.

He was quiet on Sunday, but looking forward to seeing what type of jump Chris Kavanagh’s game takes in year three for the Irish. If the jump is as big as his sophomore year from his freshman season, he is in for a monster campaign.

Loved seeing what Devon McLane brings to the table. He and Bryce Walker will be hard to keep off the field as both of them can play that hybrid attack/middie role. They will be key cogs on the offensive side of the ball when the Irish have a settled situation and have the time to sub them in to get them on the field. Similar to what we saw last year, Bryce can take the ball behind the cage, basically giving the offense a fourth attackman when he is on the field. And McLane has a very quick release that defenses will have to be wary of when he gets the ball either on top or on the wing. Both of them bring a versatility to the Irish offense that makes our offense a position-less unit again this year.

The starting midfield of Eric Dobson, Jalen Seymour and Reilly Gray brings some serious size when they step on the field. 6-5, 6-4 and 6-4. Pick your poison with whom you want to longpole in this situation as the Irish will find the mismatch up top. All three of these players are good dodgers from there and can beat their man in one on one situations. And Dobson only continued to show off his underrated passing skills in the scrimmage against the Falcons. Don’t let him shoot, don’t let him pass, basically if you are a defensive player, you don’t want to even let him get the ball in his stick.

Ben Ramsey continues to be the Irish’s Ironman running up and down the field all day long. He is a stalwart on the defensive middie line, he clears the ball, he is on the man-down unit, but he can also take the ball to the cage and score. It will be interesting to see how the coaching staff uses him this year as he is so valuable on the defensive side, but he also possesses the skills on the offensive side to be a weapon there. Is he this year’s Brian Tevlin? We will soon find out.

Danny Parker, Carter Parlette and Nick Harris will be the other main SSDMs this year with Parker getting a lot of run now that he is healthy (coming off his injury last year at UVA). Those three, and if you include Ramsey, give the Irish a tremendous unit that brings a ton of experience to the table.

Will Lynch and Colin Hagstrom are our top two faceoff specialists, with Will leading the charge coming off his amazing Final Four. As we have talked in the past, having two that the Irish can trot out to the faceoff circle will be key for the whole season.

These opening scrimmages are a big opportunity for Christian Alacqua and Max Busenkell to forge their footprints onto the second / third middie lines. As it is early in the season, they have a chance to give the coaching staff zero doubts in their roles in the middle of the Irish offense.

Nate Schwitzenberg just has it. Watch out for this freshman, whether this year or in the near future. He has a relentlessness to him and he is going to be one to watch.

Nice work on Ronan Doherty’s part. Last year he started out at SSDM, but then moved back to LSM as the season moved along. He looked quicker out there on Sunday, looks like he has put in the work to get himself in position to play minutes at LSM this year.

Tyler Buchner and Jordan Faison got a lot of run in the latter half of the scrimmage. They both belonged out there with Faison scoring a goal and showing the quickness we all saw on the football field. He is going to find a spot on the offense this year, he is going to be too good to keep off the field. Buchner is an athlete and the stick skills are a little rusty, but I would not be surprised to see him develop a role at some point in the season.

Nice work out there Alex Zepf! Really good job coming in for Liam, looking good out there.

Lastly, great to see some of the other players get some good run. Sam Assaf out there on defense along with Conrad Delgado, Declan Cooke and Jake Sommer. Transfer Jake Bonomi scored a goal later in the contest, as did Fisher Finley and Griffin Grant. Finley and Grant both bring good size to the table and will be interesting to see if Finley can get into that third line middie mix. Michael Lynch and Michael Ridgway both tallied goals and Thomas Porell brought toughness when running on a midfield line. Max Manyak, Ryan Sforzo and Jack Conroy all were out there, as were Pat Eilers, Christian Gallagher and Andrew Greenspan all getting their turn at the faceoff dot.

Sorry if I missed anyone else!

Final Thoughts:

The 2024 Fighting Irish have about 60 players on their roster for this upcoming season. And when the real games get underway, the overall group of players on the field will get smaller, so scrimmages like Sunday give everyone a chance to get out onto the field and show what they can do. And in the end, it is an opportunity for the team to just get better. Two more weekend matchups to do the same, and while I don’t have plans as of now to be in the Bend for those tilts, each game will offer something new and something different that the coaching staff and players can take moving forward.

When Cleveland State comes to town in mid February and when things really get underway, every single player on the Irish squad will have their role on the team, every single player will make a difference each and every week. Every single player will have their hand in the success of this year’s Irish squad.

That’s the mark of a true team, that’s the mark of the defending National Champions.

Lastly, as always, Fred Assaf was there on Sunday to take pictures, here below are some snapshots from the matchup (all photos credit to Fred Assaf). Thanks Fred...

Until next time, Let’s Go Irish!

My son with Pat Kavanagh after the game: