Notre Dame Fighting Irish lacrosse (RPI #8 8-5) readies to face the Virginia Cavaliers (RPI #2 12-3) in the ACC Finals this Saturday at 2:00, ESPNU.  The Klockner Stadium field looks fantastic for the event.

The Irish look to defend their 2018 ACC title!

The Opponent

Earlier this season, the Irish didn’t hold a 10-5 lead and ultimately lost to UVa  11-13.  In last year’s final, Notre Dame prevailed 17-7 to win the championship.

Last week, Virginia beat North Carolina in overtime to reach this final game.

It’s tough to say to what degree the Cavaliers have improved in the month and a half since the last meeting.  Their schedule has been somewhat light.  We do know they are still dominated by the foursome of Moore, Laviano, Krause and Aitken, and Ryan Conrad remains one of the top 2-way middies in lacrosse (Laviano and Aitken ran roughshod over the Irish in March).  The goalie situation has been fluid for them, but we don’t know what to make of it.  It is safe to assume they will exhibit similar strengths from the earlier game.

Our Questions

Losing to Virginia earlier in the season is not something anyone is happy about, but it doesn’t represent a reason for the Irish to change what they’ve been doing.  The boys were up big against the Cavaliers, on the road, and at the end of a long road trip.  Turnovers and fatigue kept them from closing the deal.

With this in mind, we see three simple keys:

  1. Get the ball to Gleason and Costabile:  The last game versus Virginia was the only time neither Costabile nor Gleason had a big impact on the scoring.  The boys had a scoring balance across the lineup, but life is always easier for the offense when the two primary scorers obligate the opponent to devote more resources to stop them.
  2. Limit turnovers:  Virginia needed 22 Irish turnovers to win. So long as Notre Dame takes care of the ball as they have been the past few weeks, they will have a distinct advantage.
  3. Score efficiently:  We’ve been keeping track of shooting percentage and efficiency the past few weeks.  While it hasn’t been bad, some improvement is necessary and would make a huge difference.  The critical part of this data piece is simply that the Irish need to score on their layups.  If the boys can find a way to score on 30% of their possessions, they will like the result.

Other Notes

Leonard and Schmidt are coming off great games.  We hope their confidence remains high, but we remind everyone Notre Dame needs a good, consistent performances from the specialists, not a record setting ones (not that we would mind another 18 save show!).

We are looking forward to the new alternate helmets that will debut on Saturday!

While Virginia does not recklessly run like they have in recent years, they do operate at a brisk pace.  It will be important for the second midfield and reserve SSDMs to play meaningful and productive minutes.  Fatigue appeared to be a problem in March.

Restic and Boyer have really looked good at LSM the latter half of the season.  Not quite #46Trucking levels (yet), but improved enough that they should be able to torment Aitken in the middle of the field like Sexton did to great success.

Check out for up to the minute bracketology during conference playoff weekend.  In a nutshell, most models suggest the Irish are likely to have a seat at the NCAA table with the win over Duke last weekend, but some early results from the conference tournaments have chipped away at Notre Dame’s RPI and have added a pinch of worry to the Sunday selection show.  In short, a win would be a lot more beneficial to the Irish than it would be to the Cavaliers.

The forecast is for 80 degrees and cloudy.  It appears the game will be played in a dry window on an otherwise rainy weekend.  We’d love to see the boys catch a good weather break at the end of an otherwise very uncomfortable season.