Notre Dame Fighting Irish lacrosse were awarded the #7 seed in the NCAA tournament and will host 9-time national champion Johns Hopkins this Sunday at 7:30, ESPNU.

This will be the first night lacrosse game at Arlotta since the 2016 playoff game versus Air Force.

Playoff lacrosse. Night lacrosse!

The Bracket

On selection Sunday, Notre Dame’s RPI remained high enough that it did not appear tournament selection would be an issue.  The Irish ultimately got the 7th seed and a home game.  Winner to play the winner of Duke/Richmond at Shuart Stadium on Long Island he following week.

This will be Notre Dame’s 14th straight appearance in the NCAA tournament, and 9th straight where the boys earned a home game.

The Opponent

This is the 132nd season of lacrosse for Johns Hopkins, and 47th appearance in the NCAA tournament.  The Irish have played them five times, all in the NCAA tournament, with a record of 1-4.  The last game was in 2007, a notable NCAA overtime game in a lightning storm.

The Blue Jays (8-7) come into the game on a bit of a hot streak.  Three weeks ago they got smashed by #1 seed Penn State, 9-20 to put them at 6-6 and with playoff prospects dim.  They recovered with two strong wins over Maryland, followed by a 17-18 OT loss to Penn State in the B1G Championship.  They looked good throughout this run, and the two Maryland wins were enough to get them into the tournament and to establish good momentum.

The Blue Jays are led by coach Dave Pietramala, one of the greatest defensemen to ever play.  Their scoring is led by the excellent freshman Joey Epstein with 45 goals and 22 assists.  Cole Williams and Kyle Marr combine with Epstein to provide the vast bulk of the Hopkins scoring, and they have quite a few other players capable of scoring if too much attention is given to the big three.  Almost 2/3rds of their goals are assisted.

Ryan Darby is their goaltender, saving at a .451 clip.  Over the season, faceoff have been taken by Kyle Prouty and Matt Narewski, who combined for a .549 win rate.

The Blue Jays don’t have an area in which they are dominant, but they don’t have any glaring weaknesses, either.  They are above-average across the board.  The Irish will think they hold some advantage in the ground ball and goaltending areas, but not an overwhelming one.

Our Questions

This is very exciting.  The boys will be looking to make a statement in their opening game.  Whether they can will depend on these questions:

  1. Which team shows up? This game won’t be decided by the opponent, but by which Notre Dame team shows up.  Will it be the one that had solid wins over Maryland, Denver, Syracuse and Duke, or will it be the team that struggled against Virginia or to hold a lead against Ohio State?  The team has gone back and forth.  ESPN commentator Quint Kessenich has often noted the talent on this team is second to none.  But they are young and inconsistent.  If they focus, they will perform, and they will win.
  2. Offensive efficiency:  We have struggled to find the key which determines their offensive output.  We have look at shooting percentages of Costabile, Willets and Morin, but ultimately it seems to just be a question of scoring efficiently and finding which of the many scoring options works best to that goal.  If they get to 30%, we like their chances to win comfortably.
  3. Continue good specialist play.  Faceoffs and goaltending have been on an upward trajectory.  Solid performance in these areas will go a long way towards securing a victory.

Other Stuff

There are all sorts of considerations going into this playoff weekend!

  • As you may notice from our pregame questions, there isn’t a lot to think about in this game.  This is playoff lacrosse.  Play your strengths better than they play their strengths, and the rest will take care of itself.  Survive and advance.
  • We remain hopeful a nighttime playoff lacrosse game will be well attended by the students on campus for Senior Week!
  • The weather forecast is for mid-50s temps and a chance of brief showers.  We sincerely hope it stays dry for the boys, they’ve dealt with rain more than enough this year.
  • We have no news to add on this issue, but the internet is buzzing regarding a player who has a knack for performing very well in night games for the Irish and whose name rhymes with Ryder Garnsey.  We have only one thing to say here at 18 Stripes:  We are proud of Ryder for working hard in the classroom and staying with the program to get his standing back, the rest is gravy.
  • There was a game last week.  Matt Schmidt had 10 saves in it.  There was no trophy on plane for the return trip.  We will say no more than to know the boys will learn from the experience.
  • Did we say NCAA playoff lacrosse??
  • Don’t forget Sunday is also Mother’s Day!
  • We haven’t said much about the women’s team, but they are in the NCAA tournament, too, and they’ve posted this fantastic video about their star goalkeeper:

  • Follow us on twitter @ND_Atl for  pregame updates.