Notre Dame Fighting Irish lacrosse (#4/#7 3-1, 0-0 ACC) will open their ACC campaign against the Virginia Cavaliers (#12/#12 4-2, 1-0 ACC) this Saturday at 3:00 pm.  The game will be streamed on WatchESPN/ACC Network Extra.

The Opponent

The Cavaliers under coach Lars Tiffany play a unique brand of lacrosse.  The style prioritizes transition and early offense, almost to the exclusion of everything else.  It can be fun and fast paced, and maddeningly sloppy, all at the same time. The Irish have had recent success against the ‘Hoos and this style of lacrosse, winning both matchups last year.  However, Notre Dame also had the benefit of John Sexton controlling the middle of the field those games, and he tormented the 2018 Virginia squad like no other.

Michael Kraus, Ian Laviano, Matt Moore and Dox Aitken are all names very familiar to Irish fans.  This year the team will also need to account for the return of Ryan Conrad, one of the best 2-way midfielders the Irish will see.  Alex Rode And Patrick Burkinshaw have shared the goalie duties, and while there have been a few middling performances, both have also had record-setting days.  At the faceoff dot, Petey LaSalla and Justin Schwenk manage a consistent 50%.

The Cavaliers are coming off wins over Syracuse and Brown, both in overtime.

Our Three Questions

Without Sexton in the lineup, this matchup seems tricky on paper:

  1. Limit turnovers:  Even in the wins last year, the Irish were drawn into sloppy play and turned the ball over too much.  They have been careless with the ball going into this game so there will be a premium in not allowing it to get any worse.  Virginia only clears at 75%, but they get away with it because their opponents get caught up in the pace and clear just as poorly.  Discipline!
  2. Bench:  We suspect there will be north of 40 possessions this game, and this will require a bit of help from the bench.  The second midfield line needs to be productive like it was against Maryland, and the entire depth of the defensive midfield needs to keep control over the middle of the field and deny Virginia the transition and early offense opportunities they seek.  Plus, the Irish follow this game with a rare midweek game against Michigan followed by a game against Ohio State.  They can’t afford to get worn out.
  3. Ground balls:  The ball will be on the ground a lot.  The Irish need to demonstrate they want it more and simply get it off the ground.  This one is not complicated, there’s just a premium on execution given Virginia’s style.

Basically, the Irish need to play sound, fundamental lacrosse to have a opportunity for success. We aren’t going to elevate these issues to the 3 keys to the game, but Matt Schmidt should expect a significantly higher shot volume and will need to be on his game, and we should expect Michael Kraus to pressure Arden Cohen like he did last year.

Other Stuff

Coach Corrigan will be looking for his 298th win as the Notre Dame coach in his hometown.

While the Irish have had a lot of success against Virginia the past several years, the games have typically been very close and required late heroics like Garnsey in 2017 and Perkovic in 2016.

This trip marks the end of the team’s spring break trip, which had stops in California and Gettysburg.

Notre Dame -1.5, o/u 23 for those interested in that sort of thing.