April 21, 2012

Not So Fast: Irish Defense Stymies Villanova After Quick Start

by Mark Macyk | LaxMagazine.com | Live Blog Replay

Jim Marlatt had three assists for the Irish, who pulled away behind a defensive unit that held Villanova scoreless for 39:48 after the Wildcats raced to a 4-0 lead.
© Jim O'Connor (file) 

VILLANOVA, PA. - Villanova has played seven Top 20 teams this season, but leading scorer Jack Rice didn't hesitate when asked if Notre Dame was the best defense the Wildcats had seen this season.

"Yeah," the junior attacker said. "I definitely think they're the best."

Notre Dame stymied Villanova's attack with its hybrid defense to win, 10-7, Saturday. The victory gives the Fighting Irish the No. 1 seed in the Big East tournament, to be held May 5-7 at Villanova.

"They play a very unique style of defense," said Villanova head coach Mike Corrado. "Kind of a man-to-man slash zone. They encourage you to take certain shots. They did a nice job of taking away some of the things we do well and got on a little bit of a run, especially coming out of halftime."

Notre Dame (10-1, 5-0 Big East) came in averaging 5.6 goals against per game, has not allowed a team to score more than nine points and is on track to break the program record of 6.19 goals against per game, set in 2009. The Irish have won nine straight since losing to Penn State on Feb. 26.

Early it appeared Villanova (8-5, 4-1) would be the first team to solve Notre Dame's defense. Nick Doherty scored to put the Wildcats ahead 4-0 with 4:55 remaining in the first half. But Villanova went the next 39:48 without a goal and trailed 8-4 when Notre Dame's Ryan Foley scored the eventual game-winner with 11:07 remaining in the game.

"I think we got a little impatient and we started to force some things," Corrado said. "Force some passes, maybe not as selective with our shooting. You can't do that against Notre Dame."

Notre Dame's Sean Rogers led all players with three goals and two assists and Jim Marlatt added three assists. John Kemp made 10 saves for the Irish, stepping up on the rare occasion that Villanova managed an open shot.

"They did a good job of tightening up," Rice said. "Sort of looked like I'd be open at times, but then they'd have two guys edging down and crashing the crease. Passes were in there, but I was getting hit right away as soon as the passes got to me. They did a good job of disrupting."

Rice leads Villanova with 27 goals this season, but scored just once against Notre Dame. Max Hart led the Wildcats with two goals and Kevin Cunningham had one goal and one assist.

"Hopefully we can take something from this," Rice said. "I think we will. We played awesome for the first four goals that we scored, then we just let them right back in the game. Didn't come out, I guess ready, but we should have. That's something we'll remember down the road."

'Nova could get a chance for redemption in two weeks when it hosts the Big East tournament. If the Wildcats defeat Providence (1-13) on Saturday, they will lock up the No. 2 seed. No. 17 Syracuse, St. John's and Georgetown, which beat Syracuse on Saturday, are in the running for the final two spots in the four-team tournament, which is being held for the first time ever.

Said Hart: "We're hoping to see [Notre Dame] again."

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