Notre Dame Fighting Irish lacrosse (#7/#8 1-0) beat the Detroit Mercy Titans (1-1) 19-6 on Saturday evening indoors at Loftus Sports Center.  The Irish showed off their impressive depth in this resounding 2019 season-opening win.  Our game recap:

The Scoring and the Data

It’s been a while since the Irish scored this many goals.  Bryan Costabile led the team with an impressive personal best 5 goals and an assist.  Brendan Gleason had a hat trick.  Other multiple point scorers were Brian Willets (2g), Connor Morin (1g, 2a), freshman Quinn McCahon (1g, 1a), Wheaton Jackoboice (1g, 1), freshman Griffin Westlin (2g), and Charles Leonard (2g), who showed he is more FO than GO.  Stephen Chase and Michael Fay had a goal each, and Eric Restic, Nick Stinn and Carson Cochran each had an assist.

The defense had an impressive 15 caused turnovers (Crance, Cohen and Phillips with 2 each).  The Irish also dominated in ground balls, 34-14.  Matt Schmidt had 4 saves, and John Zullo got extended time on the crease in the fourth quarter.  The defense allowed 21 shots, with a paltry 11 of them on net.  These details combine to a 15% offensive efficiency for Detroit, an elite showing by the Irish.

At the face-off dot, the Irish won an impressive 16 of 27 against Detroit’s excellent Alex Jarzembowski.  Charles Leonard won 11 of the 20 draws he took. He was helped by Kyle Hyland (3 for 3), freshman Junior Almeida (2 for 3) and Jacob Frane.

Notre Dame successfully cleared 24 of 25 attempts, and limited the Titans to 15 of 18.  The Irish scored in 2 of 3 man-up opportunities, and allowed a goal late in the game in their only man-down situation.  Early jitters inflated the turnover numbers a bit, with Notre Dame losing the ball 20 times to Detroit’s 27.

Matt Vangelen had quite a day for Detroit Mercy.  He was involved in 5 of their 6 goals (4g, 1a).

The goal of the day was clearly this all-around effort by freshman Griffin Westlin:

The Plot

Charles Leonard got the season started scoring 25 seconds into the game.  Brendan Gleason scored soon thereafter on an assist from freshman Quinn McCahon, who also got the start.

The Irish missed out on a few opportunities, and then the Titans came back and scored the next three to take a lead.  Irish fans had a brief flashback to surprise slugfests against Detroit in years past.  However, Costabile, Gleason, Morin, Willetts and company got things under control and soon scored 12 straight to make it a rout.

The defense made early adjustments to account for Vangelen, and from midway through the first quarter to the very end of the game, the Titans barely got a sniff at the cage. The Irish went north of 30 minutes straight without allowing a goal, and the final two goals did not occur until after Notre Dame made wholesale substitutions on the back end.  It was truly impressive.

Coach Corrigan substituted liberally in the fourth quarter.  FOURTY-TWO Fighting Irish players saw the field!!!


Tons of positive notes from the game:

    • Depth, Depth, Depth:  Unlike the past 2-3 years where Notre Dame was reliant on a set opening lineup, the Irish went deep into the roster for meaningful minutes.  The athletic stockpile earned through years of excellent recruiting was unleashed.  It was difficult to keep track, but the Irish gameplan included at least 5 attackmen, 9 midfielders, and 3 FOGOs.  This is without including SSDMs who played a 2-way role, multiple LSMs, and what appeared to be a few man-up specialists.  When the athletic base is so deep, it will be exceedingly difficult for opposing teams to match Notre Dame’s intensity for four quarters.
    • New look offense:  The Irish coaching staff gets a lot of grief from the lacrosse press for what was often perceived as a deliberate and unimaginative offense (not us, to be clear).  What was on display Saturday was quite different from last year and may reflect the input of new OC Neil Hutchinson.  The 2-man game was on display in all parts of the offensive zone, as was what appeared to be some pairs concepts.  The patterns seemed a lot more dynamic, which may be as much the result of the broader personnel base or by design.  We’ll know more in the coming weeks.
    • Man-up set:  There weren’t many penalties this game, but when man-up, the Irish appeared to line up in a basic open-set, with Costabile pulled way back into the midfield corner to draw away a defender.  This left a 5 on 4 where the Irish quickly scored.  The second situation appeared more standard, but it shows the Irish are opening up the playbook.
    • Faceoff wings:  The Irish mostly double-poled from the wings as they did last year, and it seems a style well suited for faceoff specialists Leonard, Almeida and Hyland, who seemed more comfortable tying up the draw rather than looking for the clean win.  Restic, Cohen, Crance, Boyer and others were devastating on the wings.  More importantly, they showed a competent, and sometimes flashy, handle with their sticks, which will be critical in the shot clock era.
    • Transition and Ride:   The Irish started in a soft ride that got progressively more aggressive as the game unfolded, and the defensive midfield showed a lot of athleticism in pushing the ball to create transition opportunities.  Schantz, Stinn, Cochran, Boyer, Restic, Hallenbeck, Crance, and Phillips are just a sample of the names pushing the pace.  This sort of depth and athleticism can only foreshadow good things.  The flexibility and depth to alter ride pressure schemes will pay dividends.
    • Jitters:  First-game nerves were all but expended in the first quarter, where we saw more than a handful of unforced errors.  These early jitters inflated the Irish turnover totals a bit, but we suspect the coaches will make tidiness a point of emphasis this week.
    • Few assists:  It wouldn’t be fair if we didn’t find something to criticize, but it was very hard to find any negatives in this game.  We suggest the Irish could improve on their assist to goal ratio, which still suggests an offense a bit too dominated by dodging for its scoring opportunities.  The ratio seems improved from last year, and we’ll add that if athleticism is what separates this squad from its competition, then a lower ratio may not be much to complain about.  We’ll leave this note here for a few weeks and see where things go.
    • Kaiju:  For a few minutes at the end of the game, the colossal Peter Gayardt and Davis Allen shared the field.  We are gleefully optimistic that the staff can make something of this pairing, and we have an idea of what the game film will look like.

The Music

We have to note, new player-bagpiper Tommy McNamara did a fantastic job in his first walk-out.  He belted out Scotland the Brave like a pro.  With all due respect to his predecessors, his was the best opening effort in recent memory.

The Fighting Irish travel to Richmond next week to take on the Spiders.