April 28, 2012

Notre Dame Notches First-Ever Win over Syracuse

by Matthew DeFranks | LaxMagazine.com | Live Blog Replay

Midfielder Jim Marlatt was one of seven different scorers who contributed Notre Dame's eight goals in an 8-6 win over Syracuse. "That's who we are," said Irish coach Kevin Corrigan.

© Jim O'Connor

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- For the first time since 2007, the Syracuse men's lacrosse team has racked up seven losses. For the first time in over a decade, the Orange failed to score a goal in the first half. And for the first time in program history, No. 3 Notre Dame knocked off No. 17 Syracuse.

The Irish (11-1, 6-0 Big East) rode a strong first half and a relentless defense to an 8-6 win over the Orange (7-7, 3-3) at Arlotta Stadium on Saturday in front of 4,522 fans. Notre Dame was previously 0-5 against Syracuse.

"It's a great win for this team and a great win to end our regular season on a good note," Irish coach Kevin Corrigan said. "I have a feeling we're going to see this team again in seven days [at the Big East tournament]. We're just happy to get a 'W' today and get out of there with that."

Notre Dame hopped to an early 1-0 lead behind sophomore midfielder Jim Marlatt's 15th goal of the season. The score remained that way until sophomore attackman Westy Hopkins whipped a shot past Orange freshman goalkeeper Bobby Wardwell with 4:31 left in the first quarter. Notre Dame tacked on another by junior midfielder Ryan Foley to take a 3-0 lead at the end of the first frame.

"I thought that [first goal] was really important for us in terms of being able to relax," Corrigan said. "We knew they were going to come after us. This is a team that, like a lot of teams we've played recently, needs a win. At this point, we're a good win. We knew they were going to come after us a little bit. I was glad to see our guys come out aggressively and [getting] that first goal kind of helps everybody relax."

A second quarter tally by Irish junior midfielder Pat Cotter pushed the Notre Dame lead to 4-0 heading into the break.

Syracuse, meanwhile, had plenty of issues scoring. The Orange won just two of six faceoffs in the first half while Irish junior goalkeeper and Tewaaraton Award candidate John Kemp had seven saves in the opening 30 minutes.

"I thought we got some really good looks early," Orange coach John Desko said. "If we had gotten a couple of those, I think we would have felt better going into halftime. You know we have to be patient against a good team like that."

The Orange hoisted 14 first-half shots compared to Notre Dame's nine but could not find the back of the net. The two first-half quarters were the 13th and 14th scoreless quarters of the year for the Irish defense, one that entered the game as the tops in the nation.

"The goalie played great in the first half. We shot well," Orange redshirt senior attackman Tim Desko said. "We should have changed the plane and shot a little higher, but the goalie played a good first half and then we got down 4-0 and then we came out to play in the second half. If we had got a couple in the first half, it would have been a different game, and we played our hearts out until the end."

Syracuse finally got on the scoreboard when Desko slid a shot past Kemp, breaking a scoreless streak of 42:53 for the Orange. Less than three minutes later, Syracuse senior midfielder Joe Moore struck again for Syracuse, cutting the Notre Dame lead to two.

"We changed our shooting in the second half, which I thought was good. We started to go up top after we shot a lot of them down low," John Desko said. "We were able to crawl back in it. And with the exception of a couple clearing mistakes, and some bad passes of the faceoff we had good possessions. I thought we had a chance to come back and tie it up today."

But every time Syracuse inched closer, Notre Dame answered. The Orange never strung together more than two consecutive goals against the Irish.

Following Orange junior midfielder JoJo Marasco's third quarter goal, Foley found the back of the net again for Notre Dame, this time with just 0.1 seconds left in the period. Foley was one of seven Notre Dame players to tally a goal Saturday.

"That's who we are [to have balanced scoring]. That's who we've been all year," Corrigan said. "We told our guys at the end of last year, going into the summer 'Look, we can be as good as we were a year ago, but we have to be different. We're not going to ride [former Irish stalwarts] Dave Earl or Zach Brenneman or one of those guys the way we have. We're going to have to be a team that shares the ball and has a lot of people contribute.' Thankfully, it's worked out that way."

In the fourth quarter, Syracuse harassed Notre Dame into seven turnovers and only allowed them to complete two-of-six clears. Kemp stood tall once again for the Irish, though, picking up three more saves in the final stanza. He finished with 11 on the day.

"John's terrific. He's the best goalie in the country. He may be the best player in the country," Corrigan said. "I keep hearing all these people talk about all these offensive guys for the Tewaaraton and I'm wondering why John's not part of that conversation. If you watch him every day, you sure think he's terrific."

Despite 11 fourth quarter shots and winning five of six faceoffs in the frame, Syracuse could not get any closer than 7-6 with 7:43 left after a man-up goal from senior midfielder Bobby Eilers. Irish freshman midfielder Will Corrigan's score with 7:10 gave the Irish a two-goal lead they would not relinquish.

Next for both teams is the inaugural Big East tournament at Villanova. Notre Dame enters as the top seed while Syracuse will be the No. 3 seed.

After a 7-7 regular season and no wins over top-10 teams, the Orange will likely need to win the Big East tournament to claim a bid to the NCAA tournament.

"We have to win two games there for anything to happen for us," John Desko said. "I don't feel bad, because unlike games previously when we lost the third quarter, today we won the second half, which we haven't been able to do going down the stretch here. That shows an improvement in our team."

While Syracuse will face Villanova — a team it lost to 11-10 in March — the Irish will take on St. John's. In the Big City Classic on April 1, the Irish took a 13-6 decision over the Red Storm.

"It's a new season for those guys," Corrigan said. "For everybody else in our tournament, in all honesty, to be assured of being in the NCAAs, I think they're going to need to win the tournament. We know whoever we play is going to need that win to guarantee that they're in the tournament."

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