Notre Dame Fighting Irish lacrosse started their California Spring break trip right by winning the Western Rivalry at that Pacific Coast Shootout.  The Irish (#4/#7  3-1, 0-0 ACC) defeated  Denver Pioneers (#8/#10 4-2, 0-0 Big East), 10-7, before a crowd of nearly 8000.

The Scoring and the Data

Bryan Costabile led the scorers with 3 goals and an assist, and Brendan Gleason and Wheaton Jackoboice kept up, each with 2 goals and an assist.  Willets had two goals, Morin with a goal and 2 assists, and Westlin and Phillips each with an assist.  It didn’t show up on the scorecard, but we will say Schmidt had an assist as well on his full-field pass to Gleason.

In our record keeping, 8 of the 10 Irish goals were assisted.

Colton Jackson and Ethan Walker paced the Pioneers with 2 goals and an assist each.

Schmidt had a nice day in the crease with 10 saves at a 59% clip.

Shots were nearly even 36-37 (15-17). The Irish didn’t do particularly well in the GB battle, falling behind 18-26, and in turnovers, 15-19.

Both teams had mild issues clearing the ball, with the Irish succeeding 14 of 18 and Denver 14 0f 17.

The Irish kept up a brisk 38 second per possession pace, but only had 36 offensive possessions and a decent 27% efficiency especially considering the quality of Denver’s defense.

Notre Dame will feel they missed out a bit, only going 2 of 7 man-up.

The defense held the Pios to a 18% efficiency (12% net man-up possessions).  This is spectacular.

The Plot

Denver scored in the first minute on a Brian Willetts penalty.  The Irish responded with vigor, scoring 4 assisted goals in a row and ending the first quarter up 4-2.

The Irish accelerated in the second scoring 4 more in a row and expanding the lead to 8-2, and finishing the half up 8-3 and in control.  It was clear that it would be a chippy game as both sides started piling up penalties, and with the coaches burning the official’s ears.

Denver tried to make it competitive with 3 unanswered goals in the 3rd, including a last-second shot that Schmidt may like back, but the defense largely held firm.  The offense stagnated a bit with Denver significantly increasing ball pressure in second half and the Irish responding with some sloppy ball handling.

The Irish scored two more in the fourth quarter, and while the Pios hung around, it seemed clear they could not score quickly enough to threaten the Irish.

Our Three Questions

We have to pat ourselves on the back a bit, as we seem to have noted the keys pretty well (the boys play Denver more than anyone else, so perhaps this is just par for the course):

  1. Fast Start:  Pressing to a 4-1 and then 8-2 lead were critical successes for the Irish.  With the defense playing well and the Pioneers not particularly well designed to score quickly, the quick lead put the opponent in a situation they were not likely to recover from, especially without someone like Baptiste on the sideline.
  2. Shot clock:   Denver went deep into possessions as predicted, and the defense held firm.  Only a few clock resets were allowed, and Schmidt certainly did his part by keeping focus when the shot clock drew to a close.  Denver’s plan seemed to prefer a B- shot to end the possession rather than dump the ball into the corner, and Schmidt passed this test.
  3. Continued offensive progress: It’s hard to complain about 8 of 10 goals being assisted!  This is progress!  However, the Irish were also very careless with the ball, probably left a few man-up goals on the field, and had a quarter-long period of stagnation to open the second half.  Still improved from weeks prior, but in need of a more consistent effort.  We need to be clear, the progress is notable and a sign of good things to come.

Odd and Ends

This West Coast game got a lot of public attention. Premier Lacrosse League founder Paul Rabil was at the game, and the game earned a piece in the LA Times.

The Irish crept up the ranking with the win, including a #4 in the coach’s poll.

Freshman Quinn McCahon, Griffin Westlin, Ramsey McCreary, and Jose Boyer saw action.

26 players saw the field, which is a decent size number for only 36 possessions and only one faceoff specialist (Leonard) seeing action.  Farnish, the Californian Olinger, and Komatz were among the players who got time on the field who were not among the usual suspects.

Gleason’s goal on a pass from goalie Matt Schmidt was the NCAA lacrosse play of the week!

If anyone doubts this is an important game to both teams, one needs to look no further than the sideline war of words between Coaches Corrigan and Tierney, and the referee crew.  Earplugs were necessary.  Both teams were also penalized far more often than usual.  Both sides were invested in the game and it got spicy

While we were pleased to see the offense move the ball so well in the first half and score so many assisted goals, it would not be fair if we didn’t record a few criticisms that we suspect will be points of emphasis in practice in the coming weeks:

  • The Irish were sloppy with the ball at times, and when the Pios came out in the second half with some heavier ball pressure, there were a lot of passes down at the ankles.  Denver is a visibly pure passing team.  Notre Dame’s routine passes were noticeably not as crisp.
  • The ground ball game is still not up to the team’s standard.  This is two weeks in a row, and against top teams, that the Irish were behind in ground balls.  Particularly because the faceoff game and defensive plan require good ground ball play, this lapse in standard is something to keep on the list of watch items for a few weeks.
  • While the even-strength defense was fantastic, the man-down defense was so-so.  Not pressing the panic button or anything like that, but 50% scoring man-down is noticeable.

It’s hard to be critical in a win against an old rival, but it’s important not to let these issues go unnoticed.

Next Up

The Irish will make a quick stop in Gettysburg on their way to Coach Corrigan’s hometown of Charlottesville, Virginia.  Notre Dame will play the Cavaliers this coming Saturday at 3:00 pm.