Notre Dame Men's LAX Preview

January 24, 2017

Written by Mike Camarda

Notre Dame enters the 2017 season ranked #5 by the media and #4 by coaches. Preseason accolades and lofty expectations have become the norm for an Irish squad that hasn’t finished outside the top 10 in a decade. With multiple final fours, conference championships, and seven straight quarterfinal appearances in that span Notre Dame has certainly earned their standing among the game’s elite. But for all their success, a national championship still eludes Kevin Corrigan & Company. This could be the year the Irish bring home a title to South Bend… or it could be a rebuilding year where they struggle to make the playoffs against a stacked schedule.

The Big Picture

Notre Dame loses a lot of key pieces from a team that shared the ACC regular season championship with North Carolina, and was eliminated by that same North Carolina team in the quarterfinals en route to UNC’s eventual national championship. Gone is all-world defender Matt Landis – who was the best defender in college lacrosse the past two years – and linemate, captain, and bagpiper Eddie Glazner who was a major cog in Notre Dame’s defensive machine. Notre Dame also replaces arguably their greatest offensive player of all time in Matt Kavanagh. “Matty Ice” earned his nickname for the litany of incredible clutch plays made in his time in South Bend, and is the only Irish alum currently on the Team USA roster.  These players leave a massive talent and leadership void on the roster that will need to be filled if Notre Dame aspires to be competitive against the hardest schedule in the country.

Luckily, Notre Dame returns a number of superbly talented players including three first team preseason All-Americans.  Furthermore, there are reasons for optimism especially on the defensive side of the ball. Notre Dame has always been a system based program on defense capable of absorbing the departure of All-American defensemen without missing a beat. The coaching and recruiting of defensive coach Gerry Byrne has proven to a total defensive product that is among the effective in the country. While the losses will certainly be felt, there is enough experienced talent returning to expect sound defense from Notre Dame and another top 10 caliber unit.

On offense, three of Notre Dame’s six offensive starters are elite players that would start for any program in the country. Notre Dame offense operates at peak efficiency when able to utilize a crease attack to maximum effectiveness, and they have one of the best finishers in the country in Mikey Wynne to fill that role. They also have an alpha dog midfielder in Sergio Perkovic to extend the defense, and the reigning ACC rookie of the year in Ryder Garnsey to be the primary initiator at attack. Whether or not the team is ultimately effective in producing consistent offense depends on the complimentary pieces and coaching scheme. Notre Dame needs the second and third midfielders to be capable initiators, and the third attack to be a threat. If the Irish can do a better job of limiting turnovers and attacking the defense from multiple positions they may produce more consistent offense even without do-it-all Matt Kavanagh.

The Stars

On offense, the Irish have a three-headed monster in Sergio Perkovic, Mikey Wynne, and Ryder Garnsey. Perkovic is most known for his cannon of a shot clocked well over 100 MPH. He’s underrated as a dodging threat to create his own shot, and he commands an LSM from the opposition at all times. His physical stature at 6’4” 230 pounds is that of an outside linebacker and he is a mismatch for many players on the lacrosse field. Where Perkovic needs to improve is his passing against the double team to create offense for other players. Mikey Wynne has scored 73 goals in his first two years at Notre Dame, and no one else on the roster has come even close to that production. Wynne excels as a catch-and-shoot finisher from inside 10 yards, and is also good attacking from low angles around the crease. Wynne is strictly an inside-out scorer that is generally ineffective dodging or feeding… he only has 8 assists in two years, so he can’t be relied upon to be a primary ball carrier to initiate the offense. Ryder Garnsey is a fearless attack and a complete player. He can sting a corner from the wing, or score on a circus shot in close. He can create his own offense, or make pinpoint passes out of his dodge. Garnsey is arguably the most important player on the entire team and will run the offense more than any other player. Garnsey switched his number this year to Kavanagh’s number 50, which is fitting for the lefty attack who will be asked to do the heavy lifting.

On defense, Garrett Epple is the returning headliner at close defense. Epple was arguably a better takeaway defender than Landis, and is an absolute hoover vacuum on ground balls. He’s battled injuries this past year and sat out the fall… his health will be the only thing capable of slowing him down this season. Notre Dame also returns an All-American caliber LSM in John Sexton. Sexton has everything you want in an LSM... he’s a great on ball defender, causes turnovers, gobbles on ground balls, and can consistently create offense in transition. Finally, Shane Doss returns as the netminder after an up and down career by Notre Dame standards. Doss is the preseason 1st Team All-American goalie, which says more about the state of goalies in college lacrosse than it does about Doss. When Doss is locked in, he makes spectacular saves and is particularly good against low shots and reaction saves in close. The key for Doss improving his consistency and save percentage will be his ability to stand up against high heat from the wings and outside.

Players to Watch

Beyond the known quantities, there are a number of players that will be counted on to assume more prominent roles on the team this year. Drew Schantz looks ready to break out as the next dominant “two way” midfielder in the Jack Near mold. Anthony Marini looks to be the guy for the third attack slot after three years of mostly spot duty. The production from that third attack role will be key to Notre Dame’s overall success. Brendan Gleason played most of the fall at attack but is running with the first midfield line this spring. He’s a versatile player, effective dodger, and good scorer who could break out in either an attack or midfield role. Thomas McNamara is a true freshman currently playing on the first midfield line and on the EMO. McNamara was once considered an elite recruit before completely falling off the rankings map despite playing in a hot bed area… his prominent role right now implies that either everyone surprisingly got him really wrong, or Notre Dame is experimenting and likes something specific in his skill set. Pierre Byrne looks poised to take on a very prominent role on the second line of midfielders, and will be deployed in a variety of roles to attack the defense. Hugh Crance and Pat Healy are the two starters with Epple at defense, but freshman Jack Kielty is the next great Notre Dame defenseman and may work his way into the lineup this year.

For brevity’s sake, we will cover all of these lesser known players and more in future position group specific preview installments.

The Schedule

02/18 – Georgetown (in Texas!)… on ESPNU, it’s a game against a good team that will reveal a lot about Notre Dame’s new pieces and the team cohesion.

02/26 – Michigan… likely the easiest team Notre Dame will play this year.

03/04 – #2 Maryland… surprising to get Maryland traveling to Notre Dame, this starts the gauntlet for the Irish.

03/12 – @ #3 Denver… games against this old GWLL rival are always thrillers, find a way to watch this game online if you can.

03/18 – @ #14 Virginia… on ESPNU, no one knows what to expect from a UVA team now headed by Lars Tiffany with his explosive offensive system. May be rated much higher than #14 by the time we get to this game.

03/25 – #17 Ohio State… Notre Dame has owned Ohio State as of late, and should prevail again.

04/01 – #5 Syracuse… on ESPNU, Notre Dame destroyed Syracuse in the Dome last season and the Orange will have revenge on the mind when they visit South Bend.

04/08 – @ #7 Duke… on ESPNU, Duke is Duke. Watch this game.

04/11 – #18 Marquette… short rest against an extremely well coached team is an absolute Admiral Ackbar level  trap.

04/22 – #1 North Carolina… on ESPNU, a weird “rivalry” right now built on thrilling victories, cheap shots by North Carolina, general chippiness, and dislike. North Carolina got the better of Notre Dame last year twice on their way to a championship.

04/28 – ACC Tournament. If Notre Dame isn’t participating, something went very wrong.

05/06 – @Army… a warm up game for the NCAA tournament, assuming Notre Dame has handled their business against an insane schedule. If not, this may be a do-or-die game to get into the field.

The schedule is jam packed with quality opponents. Every game at Notre Dame should be watchable online if not airing on ESPNU. The two early home games against Michigan and Maryland may be played in Loftus if the South Bend temperatures are typical. It’s imperative that Notre Dame wins all of the “easy” games against Georgetown, Michigan, Ohio State, Marquette, and Army. With those wins, they likely only need two more victories somewhere else in their schedule to earn a playoff berth given their strength of schedule. It may not be realistic to expect Notre Dame to play up to their rating given the holes they are filling. But if they do, an expected record would be 8-3 excluding the ACC tournament. The key stretch is the game in Durham against Duke immediately followed by a game on two days rest against a strong Marquette squad that pushed Notre Dame to the limit last year. Whether Notre Dame ends up as a seeded team or struggles to make the tournament likely depends on how they do in that taxing turnaround.
Discussion from...

Notre Dame Men's LAX Preview

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Great write up, Thanks for posting, definitely nice to see a lax post on the board. I'm really looking forward to seeing how the defense holds up, I think ND will get offensive production but the D worries me.
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It was good to see Epple play against the national team. Hopefully a sign of his health. As long as Byrne is running the defense I won't worry about it.
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