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Sunday, April 21, 2024
The Observer

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Notre Dame lacrosse looks to bounce back from tough losses in their games this weekend

Men’s Lacrosse

The preseason hype was through the roof for a Notre Dame men’s lacrosse team that entered the season as reigning national champions while also returning the nucleus of their team, most notably, the two Kavanaugh brothers (attackers graduate student Pat and junior Chris) and first-team All-American graduate student goalie Liam Entenmann. However, facing their first test of the season against now No. 11-ranked Georgetown, the Irish received an early-season wake-up call.

The overtime loss came in heartbreaking fashion following two opportunities to win the game, one at the end of regulation and the other after securing the first possession of overtime. However, the Irish can't afford to dwell on the loss, as they get back in action on Sunday against No. 3 Maryland, who have started the season 4-0 with impressive wins against No. 15 Princeton as well as against No. 14 Richmond and No. 7 Syracuse, both in overtime.

Already this season, Maryland has shown the ability to grind out wins in close games. Their success has been largely attributed to their stellar defense, which despite the top competition, has only allowed 8.5 goals per game, ranking tied for seventh in the nation. They lean on veteran long sticks including junior Colin Burlace, senior Ajax Zappitello and graduate student Jackson Canfield.

Behind them is another experienced presence in goal with graduate student Logan McNaney. Braden Erksa is off to a great start this season, notching 10 goals and 4 assists for a team-high 14 points. Not far behind with 11 points, and leading the team with 8 assists, is Eric Malever. These two pose a threat to any defense in the NCAA.

The Irish defense ranks first in the nation allowing only 7.33 goals per game. While this number is undoubtedly inflated by a lower level of competition in the first two games, this unit remains one of the most formidable in college lacrosse. Despite losing their anchor from last season in Chris Fake, who earned second and third-team All-American honors for his play last season, the return of Entenmann alone elevates the ceiling of this group massively.

To take down this Maryland team, the Irish will need more production from their offense. The Irish should have more than enough talent offensively to create more than they did last game, especially with the return of both the Kavanaugh brothers and graduate student Jake Taylor, as well as senior midfielder Eric Dobson and rising star freshman Jordan Faison, who has already tallied seven points this season. Of that group, however, the onus will be placed the most on the Kavanaghs, who were held to a combined four points against Georgetown. Expect a response from those two in this game, especially if Notre Dame has more offensive success.

The final key to success for the Irish will be eliminating penalties and turnovers. Against Georgetown, they gave it away 15 times and suffered from a pair of two minute unreleasable penalties that swung the game out of their control.

The contest will take place at Arlotta Stadium in South Bend on Sunday at noon. ESPNU will provide the broadcast. 

Women’s Lacrosse

The men were not the only ones that generated national excitement heading into the season. Coming off of an impressive quarterfinal run in the NCAA tournament last season, the Notre Dame women’s lacrosse Team had high expectations coming into the season as well. They put the nation on notice with their 14-10 win over reigning champions Northwestern, which highlighted a 4-0 start. However, after being handed their first loss of the season by No. 4 Syracuse, they will look to respond against No. 7 North Carolina on Saturday. 

The Tar Heels have also started 4-1, their only loss coming in the opening game of the season against No. 2 James Madison in overtime. To continue the four-game win streak they have put together since that crushing loss, they will need to be playing their best lacrosse. Facing this high-caliber Irish team will be a challenging test, one that carries great significance for conference positioning in a stacked ACC.

The key to their success will be continued production from Ashley Humphrey, who is off to a brilliant start with a team-high 27 points. She is joined in attack by Caitlyn Wurzburger, who is second on the team in goals with 12. These two especially will have to step up to break down an Irish defensive unit that ranks tied for seventh in the nation, allowing only 7.6 goals per game.

The Notre Dame attack has been prolific to start the season, averaging 19.2 goals per game, albeit against some weaker teams. Their attack is led by graduate student attackman Jackie Wolak, who leads the Irish in just about every offensive category including goals, assists, and total points with 27. Graduate student Kasey Choma has contributed 23 points of her own from midfield, the second-best number on the team behind Wolak. The driving force of these two veterans in attack alongside stellar defensive play has been a formula for success early in the season.

The top 10 matchup will take place at Dorrance Field in Chapel Hill on Saturday at 11:00 a.m. ACC Network will provide the broadcast.

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