The 2019 #7/#9/#10 Notre Dame Fighting Irish lacrosse season begins February 16, 2019, with a primetime game against Detroit Mercy in the Loftus Sports center. In anticipation of the start of this year’s campaign, the 18 Stripes brain trust of ND-Atl, ND-Atl 2.0, PunterBro, and Paul Rigney, with input from our followers, exchanged thoughts on expectations and concerns for the Irish going into the season. Special thanks to 18 Stripes hoops writer NDRoyalsFan for keeping an eye on scrimmages for us! Our outlook below is a compilation of our various thoughts more than a consensus view.
Notre Dame is not hiding from a challenge. The hardest schedule in lacrosse got a bit harder. The schedule changed only slightly from 2018, with Army-West Point being replaced by preseason #5 Cornell, with the Irish playing at Richmond for the first time, and the 2019 Western Rivalry game against Denver being hosted in Southern California.
— Notre Dame Lacrosse (@NDlacrosse) January 11, 2019
As may be obvious, there is consensus that the Irish once again leave themselves no margin for error. The opponents are essentially the same as last year. Two midweek trap games are on the slate, at Michigan and home against Marquette. The noticeable addition is the Irish dropped their season ending game against Army for a home game against #5 Cornell and their explosive Jeff Teat. Also, the ACC Tournament has changed formats with a potential for three games to be played.
Five games will be broadcast on ESPNU, the most of any team, with the bulk of the remaining schedule on ACCNetworkExtra.
The season began with the news that star attackman Ryder Garnsey would not be eligible to play this season. The loss led to a predictable national overreaction with most polls dropping the Irish 4 to 7 places before games were even played.
Sexton, Byrne, Millikin, Wynne, Travisano and Collins are notable graduation losses. With the additional loss of Garnsey, that’s 90+ goals and 30+ assists to be replaced on offense, and a ton of caused turnovers and experience lost on defense. The team also will be replacing its top faceoff specialist.
The cupboard is not bare at all, however. The entire stellar backline of Crance, Kielty, Cohen and goaltender Schmidt is back, as are All-Americans Brendan Gleason, Drew Schantz and Bryan Costabile. Last year’s Giant Freshman(tm) earned a lot of international and fall scrimmage experience, and the Irish welcome the #4 rated recruiting class.
Popular opinion suggests that the new 80-second shot clock will increase the pace and increase scoring. We suspect that the impact will be much more of a benefit to the Irish defense than any opposition offense. Notre Dame has been most vulnerable to long and deliberate possessions, and those will be all but eliminated with the shot clock. Further, the shot clock should give the Irish defense an opportunity to push more breaks, an area in which they excel. However, the first few weeks of D1 lacrosse under the new rules have also showed the clock will inspire teams to take earlier shots, even if they are not the best, placing additional pressure on our goalies to perform.
As noted above, Crance, Kielty and Cohen return and form a backline as good as any in lacrosse. Crance may not be as big of a national name as his performance to date would deserve, but we firmly believe he will have a Schmeisser Award-worthy year leading the defense. Schantz, Cassidy, Phillips, Restic and freshman LSM Jose Boyer are expected to lead the defensive midfield, and the depth behind them is also very high quality. Without suggesting the talent on defense is anything but excellent, it is noted by several that it will be hard to properly assess the loss of a Schmeisser Award winner and a SSDM who was a grown man until we see what the Irish have in game conditions.
Schematically we expect there to be a few new wrinkles to firm up this top defense even more. Coach Byrne spent some time in Atlanta with the NLL’s Georgia Swarm to study defensive concepts against the two-man game heavily featured in box lacrosse and by many of the Irish’s opponents.
It will be interesting to see what philosophy Coach Corrigan adopts with the new rules. Will we see a more aggressive defense looking for opportunities to break out, or will he instruct Coach Byrne to have the boys lock down the opposition like a vice? There seems to be agreement that the suffocating ride a defensive priority this year, and this will be critical to scoring goals.
A new-look offense
One thing we all seem to agree upon is that the offense should look different this year. The Irish have a new offensive coordinator in Neil Hutchinson, and most of the players relied upon for the isolation-heavy offense of the past few years are gone or are unavailable.
It is noted among our staff that the critical word above is “should.” There remains some concern that Notre Dame will rely too heavily on Costabile to isolate and dodge. What we will be focused on is whether players like Morin, Willets, Gayhardt, Drake and Chase have the expanded roles on attack that we saw over the summer and in fall scrimmage video.
Late in 2018, during the summer Spain trip, and during Fall Scrimmages, we saw a lot of new players make statements to be added to the offense. Mo Mirer was the Spain tournament MVP, and players like McNamara, Komatz and Hallenbeck showed excellent potential. The attack combination of Steve Chase to the giant Peter Gayhardt looked very productive, and we noticed a lot of trust in the freshman with players like McCreary getting midfield runs with the Costabile line along with Jackoboice. There is optimism that we will see a deep bench and a license to be creative on the offensive end as the team integrates a broader range of offensive players.
Charlie Leonard appears to have a hold on the faceoff role with some injuries impacting depth at the position. We hope to see Hyland and the freshman Almeida support Charlie over the season. It seems the primary wings will be Cohen and Boyer, a combination that can hammer opponents into submission and create transition opportunities.
Week 1 had Irish ACC opponents Duke, Syracuse and Virginia off to a rough start, giving a sense there is an opening for the Irish to claim the role of favorite. If the new rules are indeed a benefit to a tough defense and a hard riding team, the Irish seem positioned to have a very strong year. However, if there are again extended periods where the offense is stagnant, Notre Dame may find itself concerned about its NCAA tournament prospects going into the postseason. The way games have played out in the first two weeks of the season, there is reason to be optimistic that the former assessment will hold as opposed to the latter, but it is agreed that will this schedule the Irish will not have an opportunity to ease into the season. They will have to be sharp on day 1.
The Irish open the season against Detroit Mercy this Saturday at 7:30 indoors at Loftus. The game will be streamed on WatchESPN/ACC Network Extra, and the team will be led on the field by new bagpiper Tommy McNamara.
Notre Dame won the 2018 opener against the Titans 10-7 in front of a healthy 1000+ crowd. There were a few bumps in the road for the Irish that game, and Detroit has often puzzled Notre Dame. The Titans won their season opener last week against Jacksonville, 10-9. Detroit’s excellent faceoff specialist Alex Jarzembowksi is a player to watch this weekend. If we are to predict a Titan vulnerability to target, we suspect the Irish should be able to exploit the 20-second clear rule and cause Detroit problems clearing the ball. Detroit cleared against Jacksonville at less than 75%. The Irish must attack and duplicate this opportunity.
Notre Dame -6, o/u 17 for those interested in that sort of thing.