January 29, 2013

#LMranks: No. 4 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (Men)

by Gary Lambrecht | LaxMagazine.com | Team Page/Schedule

"Our guys [on defense] understand they don't have to worry about John," Notre Dame coach Kevin Corrigan said of first-team All-American John Kemp.
© John Strohsacker/LaxPhotos.com

Lacrosse Magazine is counting down its preseason rankings throughout the month of January exclusively on LaxMagazine.com.

Today continues a look at our NCAA Division I Top 20 rankings. For more, visit LaxMagazine.com/LMranks. Follow @LacrosseMag on Twitter and Tweet using the hashtag #LMranks. The countdown will resume Wednesday with profiles of the third-ranked teams in NCAA Division I men and women.

Power Ratings

Offense: 3*
Defense: 5
Goalkeeping: 5
Faceoff: 3
* Out of 5

Top Returner

G John Kemp (Sr.)
The reigning, first-team All-American is the rock upon which Notre Dame's national championship hopes are balanced. "John is not a life-of-the-party guy," Notre Dame coach Kevin Corrigan said. "He's easy-going, while he does the hardest job on the field. Our guys [on defense] understand they don't have to worry about John."


M Jim Marlatt (Jr.)
Freshman attackman Matt Kavanagh could be this guy as well, but Marlatt was the most-improved player on offense a year ago, after injuries ruined his freshman season. He led the Irish with 12 assists, and was a go-to guy by April. "He makes great decisions with the ball, shoots it well and has a really good understanding of the offense," Corrigan said.

What's New?

Matt Kavanagh could be the most exciting attackman to come to South Bend in years. After completing a stellar career at Chaminade (N.Y.) High School, the 5-feet-8 Kavanagh had 20 goals and 11 assists for the U.S. U-19 team last summer then posted hat tricks in both of Notre Dame's scrimmages in the fall. It won't be a shock if he starts sooner than later. He impressed at Champion Challenge this weekend, scoring four goals in a 10-7 scrimmage loss to Team USA.

"He's got a game that really can fit with the rest of our guys and the things that we do.," Corrigan said Friday. "Unlike a lot of freshman and talented freshman, usually you have to play around them a little bit. He's a guy that can do multiple things and he makes it easy to play with other guys. You don't worry about who you're putting him in there with. He's going to find his way around the field."

What's Not?

Notre Dame was one of the few Division I teams that truly ran three midfield lines throughout last season. It wasn't unusual for each line to get a run in the first quarter. The new substitution rules could impact that strategy, although Corrigan will try to place a premium on saving legs and building depth once again.

#LMranks MD1 Preseason Countdown

No. 20 Bryant
No. 19 Hofstra
No. 18 Fairfield
No. 17 Villanova
No. 16 Yale
No. 15 Princeton
No. 14 Penn State
No. 13 UMass
No. 12 Syracuse

No. 11 Colgate
No. 10 Lehigh
No. 9 Virginia
No. 8 North Carolina
No. 7 Cornell
No. 6 Denver

Monday: No. 5 Johns Hopkins
Tuesday: No. 4 Notre Dame
Wednesday: No. 3
Thursday: No. 2 and No. 1

More: Countdown schedule | WD1 | MD2 | WD2 | MD3 | WD3 | JuCo | MCLA | WCLA

2012 Recap

Record: 13-3 (6-0 Big East)

In A Nutshell: Two years after reaching their first-ever NCAA tournament title game, the Irish came close once again to winning their first-ever national championship, but ran into the best team in the land in the semifinals, when Loyola beat Notre Dame at its own game by riding its defense to a 7-5 victory. On most game days, the Irish played their game and did pretty much what they wanted.

High Point: In the tournament quarterfinals, Notre Dame used its outstanding midfield depth to wear down a beat-up Virginia team, 12-10, at PPL Park in Philadelphia. Second-line midfielder Steve Murphy played the best game of his career with two goals and two assists, as the Irish ended the brilliant career of UVA star Steele Stanwick.

Low Point: In the Big East tournament semifinals, Notre Dame played its worst game of the spring and suffered one of the year's biggest upsets by dropping an 8-7 shocker to St. John's. The loss had consequences. Had Notre Dame won, it likely would have been assured a top two seed in the NCAAs and could have avoided Loyola until Memorial Day.

2013 Preview

Best Case: The loss of Kevin Randall doesn't hurt the close defense too much, and that remarkable defensive system continues to thrive under Kemp's superb leadership in goal. That foundation ultimately takes the Irish to the first NCAA title in school history.

Worst Case: The offense, which on a good day typically doesn't scare anybody, fails to fire consistently. Notre Dame's tendency to get into one-goal contests bites back at the Irish, who barely make the NCAA tournament as an at-large and are knocked out early.

Inside Scoop

Coach Kevin Corrigan's comments on...

A Westy Hopkins (Jr.)
"Westy is the best at getting to the front of the cage and making things happen as a shooter or a feeder."

M Ryan Foley (Sr.)
"He can move from attack to playing up top [at midfield] and go play from behind [the cage]. His versatility sets him apart."

A Sean Rogers (Sr.)
"We've got a few guys who are pretty good quarterbacks. Sean is the best quarterback of the group."

Rival Coaches Say

"Elite defense and goalie. Disciplined and well-coached. More aggressive than ever offensively... Year in and year out this team continues to win, but does their luck run out at any point? They win so many close games and does that come back to haunt them - one goal the other way and we are talking about them being a team like Hofstra who struggled in tight games... Always have an above average defense and they return the country's top goalie in John Kemp, but is the offense production going to continue to lack at times like it has? Also, does losing [assistant coach Brian] Fisher to [coach] Monmouth effect the faceoff game?...

"I think they have a great shot at capturing their first title. Return the top goalie in the country. Defense took some hits, but they play a system so its 'next guy up.' They could be an offensive surprise if the coaching staff lets loose the dogs and does not over coach them... Return one of the top goaltenders in the nation in John Kemp. With [defensive coordinator] Gerry Byrne they will most likely have one of the top defenses in the county again...

"With the addition of Matt Kavanagh, the offensive end it adds a level of explosion to their offense... They have cemented themselves as a sustainable top 5 team. Their defense speaks for itself. Can they score enough goals to win it all? Will the rule changes help or hurt them?... They remind me of Hopkins mid-80s. You do what you do better than anybody else. That's why you win."

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