Notre Dame Fighting Irish lacrosse (#14/#15, 5-4, 1-2 ACC) travel to Marquette (5-4, 2-1 Big East) for a Wednesday evening showdown, 7:00 pm, FS1.
With the passing of Admiral Ackbar, we had hoped to retire the “It’s a trap!” meme, but the recent offensive struggles for the Irish set this midweek meeting up as the classic definition of a trap game.
The Irish have played the Golden Eagles six times in the past five years, including 1-goal wins the last two regular seasons, and a meeting in the NCAA tournament first round last year. It has been a difficult series for the Irish against Joe Amplo’s program, which had developed a reputation for beating top teams, including dumping Denver twice in the Big East tournament to earn their two NCAA berths. They are considered a great success story as a new Midwestern program.
Marquette has had a very inconsistent season with good wins against Ohio State, Georgetown and St. John’s, but some headscratching losses as well, including their own 2-goal performance against Robert Morris. They lost their top goal scorer, Tanner Thomson, in the preseason, but John Wagner and Anthony Orsini have done well to pick up the slack. Nick Grill, brother of current MLL and former Marquette standout B.J. Grill, is a solid defenseman, as is the rest of the back line. Cole Blazer once again faces the Irish in goal, as does the excellent faceoff specialist, Zach Melillo (63%!). It must be noted Blazer had a whopping 16 saves in Saturday’s win over St. John’s.
Like the Irish, Marquette will be playing on short rest having played on Saturday. The average just over 8 goals per game and give up 9. While their faceoff game is excellent, they are an average clearing team, so there may be some vulnerability to Sexton and Cohen on the wings.
The Irish really need this win, but the contest could not come at a worse time from a preparedness and rest perspective. The injury to Gleason, and the uncertain status of Costabile, have upended all organization on the first offensive lines. Players like Jackoboice, Walter, and McNamara have been shunted in to help, but 2 days of practice are not nearly sufficient to integrate them into the existing offense.
Our thoughts for the game:
- Defense! The defense has worked out most of its youthful growing pains and has become a solid force. If we had to guess, the result of this game will be largely dependent on this unit’s ability to hold Marquette to a very low total. Marquette has been held to totals of 8, 7, 2, 6, 9, and 9 before squeezing out 11 this weekend, this by teams with defenses not nearly as effective as the Irish. Crance and Co. must challenge themselves to hold the Golden Eagles to an absurdly low total in the mid-single digits. Their performance must simply be ridiculous.
- Put shots on goal. The first unit, whoever may be on it, simply has to show that they can put shots on goal. With two days of practice, it’s not going to be pretty, but they just need to score enough to win. Someone like Collins has to stretch the D with some outside shooting (like he did in his 4 goals versus Marquette last May), Garnsey and Byrne need to draw slides, Wynne and Willets need to get open behind them, and the ball must be on cage.
- Plan B. We can’t claim credit for this idea, but Quint Kessenich of ESPN and Inside Lacrosse suggests it may be easier, and wiser, for the Irish to simply insert the scout team offense if the first team is not scoring. This idea is neither silly nor an indictment of the first-team players. The Notre Dame offense had players in very defined roles, particularly the now absent Gleason and Costabile. Without Costabile’s outside threat and Gleason’s hybrid A/M abilities, the offense, as originally designed, can’t work, regardless of the effort the remaining players put into it. Plus, while McNamara, Jackaboice and Walter are very talented, getting them up to speed in two days isn’t realistic. With the short bench plan this season, the only other group that has practiced together as a unit over time is the scout unit. This unit is not a bunch of Rudys. It is made of the top recruits in the country, so we know they can play. At some point the team has to realize there is no sense beating your head against the wall. This is not summer rec league, so players can’t just freestyle and hope to succeed. They need to be organized and have practiced together extensively, hence, Plan B.
Odds and Ends
- We’re not sure, but we think this game will be indoors in the Valley Fields dome. The weather is forecast to be cold and rainy, so we hope this is true.
- With the great play of the defensive midfield and some average clearing by Marquette, we may see some dialed up riding and transition from the Irish in an effort to generate some goals. Our eyes will be fixed on Sexton and his sidekicks.
- The Irish will have a needed 10 day break before the next games against UNC.
- Notre Dame -2.5, o/u 18 for those interested in that sort of thing.