Skip to Content, Navigation, or Footer.
Saturday, March 2, 2024
The Observer

Irish men’s lacrosse faces road test against Georgetown

Last year, Notre Dame men’s lacrosse entered an early-season home matchup against Georgetown with an undefeated record. They boasted a top-five ranking, but fell to the Hoyas in that clash at Arlotta Stadium.

Ahead of Saturday’s trip to Washington, D.C. to face the Hoyas again, Notre Dame finds themselves in a similar situation. At No. 2, they are again among the top-ranked teams in the nation. After home wins against Marquette and Cleveland State by double-digit margins, they are undefeated. Just like last year, No. 17 Georgetown will represent the Irish’s first true test of the season. This time around, they will look to pass that test.

For the Irish, finding ways to achieve more consistent offense was a point of emphasis in the offseason. Last year, Notre Dame was 8-0 when scoring at least 12 goals and 0-4 when they failed to reach that total. It’s still early, but the Irish have had no trouble putting the ball in the back of the net through two games. In their opener against Marquette, they set the tone for an offensive outburst by scoring five times in the game’s first five minutes and never let up. On Sunday, strong goalie play from Cleveland State held them to just one goal for most of the first period, but they kept shooting and eventually broke through. The 39 combined goals in those games were the second-most in program history over a two-game stretch.

Much of Notre Dame’s offensive production has come from the electric play of the Kavanagh brothers. Against Cleveland State, senior attacker Pat Kavanagh and sophomore attacker Chris Kavanagh combined for 16 points, the most any Irish duo has ever posted in a single game. Pat’s six assists per game rank first in the nation, while Chris is in the top-ten in both goals and assists per game.

But just as important to the Irish’s strong start has been their impressive depth on offense. Teams like Georgetown — or the ACC opponents Notre Dame will face later in the year — have defensive players with the ability to shut down one or two key attackers. Having a number of players who can create offense at any moment and take pressure off of the team’s leading scorers makes the Irish even more dangerous. Thirteen Notre Dame players have scored goals this season. Six have scored at least three, including sophomore attacker Jeffery Ricciardelli and junior midfielder Eric Dobson, who have each tallied five.

Coming into the season, the Irish had more questions to answer on the defensive end, where they were tasked with replacing several starters. After ceding seven goals against Marquette in the first half alone, the unit buckled down and allowed just three in the second. Notre Dame’s defense was dominant in their last outing, holding Cleveland State to just two first-half goals. By the time the Vikings started to find their offensive footing in the fourth, the game was already out of reach.

Irish head coach Kevin Corrigan spoke about the defensive improvement he saw between the team’s first and second games, especially in terms of taking away their opponent’s strengths.

“It’s always easier to beat somebody if you take away what they do best and [force them to] do other things. I thought that’s what we did really well for three quarters [against Cleveland State],” Corrigan said. “So I was really pleased with the defense in that way. We’re getting better defensively.”

Looking forward, the Irish will continue building the chemistry and cohesion that will be crucial further down the line during conference and postseason play.

“We’ve still got a ways to go. I think we’re getting to the point where we’re playing more like a unit and less like six good defensive players, which is what we’d been doing through the preseason,” Corrigan said. “When we get to playing like one good defense, that’s where we want to be.”

They will need to be at their best defensively to take down a tough Georgetown team on the road. The Hoyas’ season has not gone according to plan thus far, but they enter Saturday far more battle-tested than Notre Dame. After finishing 2022 ranked No. 2 in the nation, they had high expectations entering the season, but have struggled to a surprising 0-2 start.

The Hoyas opened on the road with a narrow 13-12 defeat against now-No. 16 Johns Hopkins. Last weekend, they returned home, falling 9-7 to No. 7 Penn. Having suffered tight losses against highly-ranked opponents, Georgetown’s record belies their ability to make things difficult for the Irish on Saturday. The Hoyas’ offense has not yet clicked, but they have effectively limited two strong offenses and will look to do the same against Notre Dame. Attacker Tucker Dordevic has led Georgetown with eight goals this season. Midfielder Graham Bundy, Jr. and defender Will Bowen each earned preseason first-team All-American honors.

Corrigan is pleased that Notre Dame has now had some in-game experience in advance of what he expects to be a competitive, hard-fought duel.

“When we come to practice on Tuesday, we’re a much better team than we were last Tuesday before these two games,” Corrigan said after the Cleveland State game. “Everything’s always nice in practice because you get to stop and reset and do it again if it doesn’t work. In the game, you don’t get that opportunity, so just going through the rhythm of a game, I think, is really going to be good for us. Clearly, also a step up in the level of competition, so we have to keep getting better.”

Last year’s loss to Georgetown indicated that the Irish, while a talented group, needed time to figure things out. They eventually would, finishing the season with six consecutive wins after a 2-4 start, but that run came too late to propel them into the NCAA Tournament. On Saturday, Notre Dame has a chance to show that they’re ahead of last season’s schedule. That they’re already in position to not only compete with top teams, but beat them.

Notre Dame will face Georgetown in their first road game of the season on Saturday at noon.