Notre Dame Fighting Irish lacrosse (#11  6-5, 1-2 ACC) host North Carolina (7-5, 1-2 ACC) Saturday at noon, ESPNU. Gametime forecast is for temps in the 50s, partly cloudy, and windy (which is way better than rainy and freezing).

The Opponent

This year’s version of the Tar Heels is quite a bit different than the version we’ve observed the past few years.  We had the opportunity to see them earlier in the year when they played in Atlanta and remarked at the changes in style.

North Carolina does not have a dominant scorer like .Chris Cloutier anymore.  Their scoring is balnced across about 9 players including Timmy Kelly and William Perry.  Watch out for Atlanta’s Nicky Solomon, who has been on a tear recently.

Caton Johnson has recently settled into their goalkeeper role and has been pretty good the past few games.

Of note is that UNC is a very strong riding team, holding teams to a 76% success rate.  Their main-up offense and man-down defense have been above average this year.

UNC has generally played well this year but has struggled to get name-brand wins other than their close win over in-state and ACC rival Duke.

In recent years this game has rarely mirrored the Irish’s performance in their other games.  Games have been close and scoring is traditionally well above season averages.  UNC has caused the Irish some problems.

Our questions

Our experience watching this game in recent years suggests it won’t play out remotely how we expect, but we will be looking at three things:

  1. Break the UNC ride:  The Tar Heels try to close the possession gap with an aggressive ride.  This is a concern as the Irish have looked uncomfortable in recent weeks when there is a lot of ball pressure.  Notre Dame will have to find ways to beat the ride early and force UNC to play more conservatively.
  2. Shooting percentage:  Notre Dame has been challenged in recent weeks to get good shots, and this has resulted in a very poor shooting percentage, and by extension, a very inefficient offense.  The Irish should have a slight possession advantage and must capitalize on this with efficient scoring and canning their lay-ups.
  3. Defensive midfield:  The midfield has to win its defensive matchups with minimal sliding help.  It appears to us that Notre Dame poles have been quick to slide and support the midfielders.  There is an opportunity in this game for the defense to win matchups without a lot of help as UNC’s scoring is not dominated by a few players..  Notre Dame will slide, but we will look for them to do it less frequently and less obviously.

Odds and Ends

    • This is the last regular season game for the seniors!  We hope the Irish send this class out on a high note!!  Gleason, Schantz, Phillips, Crance, Stinn, Langdon, Atlanta’s Trense, Tyrrell, Olinger, Marchese, and, of course, Garnsey and Beare are our Senior players.
    • Both teams critically need a win to preserve NCAA tournament eligibility.
    • Win our lose, the Irish will play Duke to open the ACC tournament, and NC will play Syracuse.
    • It appears the Irish will wear their alternate uniforms:

We hope the students will pack Arlotta and see off our seniors!