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Why Notre Dame men’s lacrosse is not concerned about slow start in first-round win over Albany

IMG_7504by:Jack Soble05/13/24


No. 1 Notre Dame men’s lacrosse (13-1, 4-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) advanced past Albany in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Sunday at Arlotta Stadium in South Bend, winning 14-9.

That outcome was expected. The bumpy road to reach it was not.

The Irish came out of the gate sleepy and lethargic on both ends of the field. They didn’t execute simple passes or make good decisions. And, to their credit, the Great Danes came to play. Notre Dame head coach Kevin Corrigan said their game plan made life difficult for the Irish, especially in the first half.

But eventually, Notre Dame pulled it together and won by a relatively comfortable margin. The Irish looked like themselves after the halftime break. Graduate student midfielder Devon McLane put it best, as Notre Dame survived and advanced.

“I think at this point in the season, you take any win you can get,” McLane said.

While the Irish didn’t make excuses for their poor start, Corrigan did point to an outside factor that probably contribute to it: Notre Dame had final exams all week. As a result, the Irish didn’t practice, prepare for the game or rest after traveling to Charlotte, N.C., for the ACC Tournament as much as they would have wanted.

The majority of Notre Dame’s players, Corrigan explained, were in exams until 9:30 p.m. on Thursday night.

“We didn’t respond well to that challenge in the first half,” Corrigan said. “We did, thankfully, in the second half.”

Asked if he thought rolling through the ACC Tournament — the Irish beat No. 6 Virginia and No. 2 Duke by a combined 19 goals — gave Notre Dame an over-inflated sense of confidence, Corrigan said he hoped not, but he also acknowledged that his players are human.

Whatever it might have been, Corrigan hopes the consequence of trailing to Albany at halftime ensured that it won’t happen again.

“I don’t think anybody in our looker room would have felt great if we had lost today and said, ‘Oh, yeah, but we were in exams all week,'” Corrigan said. “So, they’re not excuses. We have to learn from it and get better.”

If Notre Dame’s players were indeed reading their own press clippings after the ACC Tournament, then Sunday’s scare might have actually been a good thing.

The Irish would prefer their letdown performance happen against Albany, a team they could beat even after sleepwalking through the first half. The alternative would be that it happens against No. 8 Georgetown, whom they will face at noon ET on Saturday and who can make them pay if they bring their B or C game.

The Hoyas, in fact, already did exactly that. Notre Dame lost to Georgetown 11-10 in overtime on Feb. 25 in South Bend.

“Coming off the ACC Tournament, we kind of steamrolled two of the top teams in the country,” junior attackman Chris Kavanagh said. “We can take this as a positive note, kind of a gut check. Don’t be arrogant coming in, because you lose one game, you’re out.

“I think this will be good for our team going into this week, especially [with] Georgetown [being] our only loss. So yeah, I think we can take a lot of positives out of the first half.”

The way Corrigan saw it, Sunday’s first half was eerily similar to the Georgetown loss. He remembered his team playing with limited energy, failing to put the Hoyas away after taking an early 1-0 lead and making “very uncharacteristic and un-fundamentally sound” plays, all of which were issues that resurfaced against UAlbany.

“We’ve got enough,” Corrigan said. “If we believe that we’ve got enough, we’ve got enough. And when we start trying to make plays that are better than the ones we need to make, that’s when we get ourselves in a little bit of trouble.

The hope, for the Irish, is that their worst performance of the tournament is behind them. Given Notre Dame’s track record over the past two years, that’s a safe bet.

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