April 20, 2013

Marlatt's Diversity Leads Notre Dame Past Villanova

by Brian Hartnett | LaxMagazine.com

Notre Dame goalie John Kemp turned away 14 shots, helping the Fighting Irish pull away from Villanova for a 13-9 victory in a Big East clash.
© TD Paulius

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Notre Dame junior midfielder Jim Marlatt is used to creating his own opportunities on the offensive end. But on Saturday afternoon, he sparked the Irish offensive attack by making a defensive stop.

With the game deadlocked at 6-6 just seconds into the fourth quarter, Marlatt stripped Villanova sophomore attackman Eric Gartner. Irish junior defenseman Stephen O'Hara recovered the ensuing ground ball and fed it right back to Marlatt, who rushed downfield to beat Wildcats sophomore goalie Reed Carlson.

Marlatt's transition goal gave the No. 3 Irish a lead they would never relinquish, as they broke the game open in a wild fourth quarter to beat No. 19 Villanova 13-9 at Arlotta Stadium.

"I thought the thing that got us rolling was the big ground ball play by Jim Marlatt and Steve O'Hara that turned into a fast break," Irish coach Kevin Corrigan said. "It really juiced our guys up because we had been working to make some plays like that."

Marlatt's fast break opportunity was just the first of several non-traditional goals that normally possession-oriented Notre Dame (10-2, 4-1 Big East) had in the game's final 15 minutes.

There was sophomore midfielder Nick Ossello winning the faceoff and racing down for the score. There was a rare own goal by Villanova (5-7, 4-1), which proved to be the eventual game-winner. And there were two more transition goals at the end of the game, in addition to the three fast break scores Notre Dame had in the first half.

"[Transition goals] are something we've talked about, but I think [Villanova] just wanted to ride us — when they had long offensive possessions and lost the ball, they were coming after us hard, so we were able to get behind them a bit and get some transition [opportunities]," Corrigan said. "If you don't do that, they are riding you aggressively, so you make them pay for it a little bit, and it causes them to back off that pressure."

All in all, Notre Dame outscored Villanova 7-3 in the fourth quarter. The Irish scored three goals in the quarter's first two minutes to jump out to a 9-6 lead. Although Villanova clawed back to make it 10-9 with three minutes to go, the Irish iced the game with three goals in the final two minutes.

"I think we started pressing a bit, made a few too many turnovers, some bad decisions defensively, and they took advantage of it," Villanova coach Michael Corrado said. "That's how close these games are—[you make] a couple of bad decisions and, all of a sudden, these games go from 10-9 to 13-9."

For much of the third quarter, it looked like the Wildcats were in control of the game. Villanova rallied from a 4-3 halftime deficit to score the first three goals of the second half. But the Irish got right back into the game with two late third-quarter goals, the second coming with only six seconds on the clock.

"We made a conscious decision to try to attack them from the wings a little bit instead of from the center-front," Corrado said of his team's second-half strategy. "We stretched the field a little bit and saw [Wildcats senior attackman] Jack Rice get some opportunities in the second half that he didn't get in the first half."

Rice led the way for the Villanova offense in the second half, scoring all four of his goals in the game's final 30 minutes. But the aggressive Irish defense effectively neutralized Villanova freshman midfielder John Kluh, the team's points leader entering the game, holding him scoreless.

"[Notre Dame] plays a different kind of defense than a lot of teams [do], and I think they hedged [Kluh], they slid to him a bunch," Corrado said. "I didn't think he played poorly, but he just didn't get a lot of opportunities."

On the other side, Notre Dame junior attackman John Scioscia tallied four second-half goals. Scioscia has scored 12 of his 14 season goals in his team's last four games.

"John just moves so well without the ball," Corrigan said of Scioscia. "John catches almost everything you throw in his direction, and then he turns it into a shot on the cage, and that's a really good attribute."

With the win, Notre Dame moved ahead of Villanova to take first place in the Big East standings.

"At this point, I feel like we're well equipped to be playing some good lacrosse here at the end and each game, we seem to find another guy to make a contribution," Corrigan said.

On the other end, Corrado said the Wildcats will need to reduce their errors if they want to defeat Notre Dame in the Big East tournament, which Villanova is hosting in early May.

"[Notre Dame] scored in the non-traditional ways, and we have to clean those up and hopefully not give them extra goals, goals where we helped them out," he said. "I think we have to cut down those mistakes and if we see them again, we have to play a little bit better."

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