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2018 Notre Dame LAX Preview

February 11, 2018
21,411

By Mike Camarda

Notre Dame Lacrosse Preview Notre Dame lacrosse opens their season this Sunday against Detroit Mercy. The game will be held in the warm and friendly confines of Loftus Sports Center and broadcast on ESPNU. After the February appetizers, the only unranked team on the docket the rest of the way is the Michigan Wolverines. It’s a brutal ACC gauntlet with the three top 10 out-of-conference foes – Maryland, Denver, and Ohio State – mixed in. Realistically, Notre Dame probably needs to find a way to win 8 games this year in order to make the tournament, and 10+ will get the Irish a top seed.

The biggest change for the Irish on offense is the departure of Sergio Perkovic which has caused a ripple across both the attack and midfield units. The reconfigured first midfield features Brendan Gleason playing alongside Bryan Costabile and Brendan Collins. Despite losing an alpha dog like Perkovic, this midfield is probably the most balanced group since Krebs-Earl-Brenneman in 2010. Both Collins and Costabile can bomb outside shots, and all three players are strong dodging threats. In the end, the success of the group will likely depend on how Costabile and Gleason develop as passers. Notre Dame is at its best when they can feed their interior finishers for layups, but there is no doubt that this group of midfielders will be able to create their own scoring chances.

The attack group returns Ryder Garnsey and Mikey Wynne, with Gleason transitioning to the midfield. The favorite for the third attack spot is sophomore Brian Willetts who provides a lot of versatility as an inside-out scorer. Willetts has the range to score from the outside, and also showed the ability to catch-and-finish on the inside in scrimmages this offseason. It remains to be seen how he functions as a creator, and the attackman most likely to push him for playing time is freshman Connor Morin. Along with Morin, the other fresh faces to look out for on offense are Mikey Drake and Wheaton Jackoboice. Mikey Drake, in particular, is likely to be “the man” on the second midfield line and has a slick game that could translate into being an instant impact player.

Ultimately, what will determine the success of the offense is what the Irish get out of Garnsey. At his best, he is a dynamic playmaker with a clutch gene similar to Matt Kavanagh’s. At his worst, he forces low percentage shots and kills possessions with turnovers. Garnsey, who flirted with a transfer to Virginia in the offseason after becoming unhappy with Notre Dame’s offensive scheme, will need to take the next step as a leader on offense if the Irish are going to be efficient in their settled offensive sets.

While the offense had minimal roster turnover, the same cannot be said for the defensive side of the field. Notre Dame replaces two close defenders and their goalie from a year ago, which is no easy task. The lone holdover is Hugh Crance, who will be joined by Jack Kielty and freshman Arden Cohen at close defense. It’s hard to get new players to gel immediately and play consistent defense, but Arden Cohen is reportedly destined to be an All-American at some point in his Notre Dame career. By all accounts, Cohen has impeccable technique and lacrosse IQ for a newcomer.

In goal, expect Owen Molloy to get the nod week one but freshman Matt Schmidt has had a strong offseason and will push will push for playing time if Molloy doesn’t start off strong. The defense will be bolstered by the return to health of many talented short-stick defensive midfielders, and John Sexton who is the best long stick midfielder in the country. Sexton has been battling an injury this fall, but when he’s at 100% he is not only a takeaway artist but a threat to score in transition. He’ll be joined by Drew Schantz who is another two-way threat, Carlson Milikin who looks to bounce back for a devastating knee injury a year ago, and a number of other quality players at a deep position group.

The Achilles’ heel of Notre Dame a season ago was the inability to consistently in faceoffs. Notre Dame built their program on tough defense, elite goaltending, and dominance facing off. Over the past few years as talent on offense increased the production in those three areas went the other direction, and is the primary reason why Notre Dame has not been able to get “over the hump.” Notre Dame hopes that Kyle Hyland will provide a shot in the arm at the faceoff dot this year. Whether Hyland and Travisano can be competitive against the other elite FOGOs will likely be the single biggest factor in determining the fortunes of Notre Dame’s season. If they can win 55%+ of the faceoffs against the best teams on their schedule, Notre Dame is one of the top 5 teams in the country with a strong chance of winning the title. If they can’t, it’s hard to see Notre Dame making it to Memorial Day weekend.

Date Opponent Time (ET) TV
2/11 Detroit Mercy 1:00 p.m. ACC Network
2/24 Richmond 1:00 p.m. ACC Network
3/3 @ Maryland 1:00 p.m. TBA
3/10 Denver 2:30 p.m. ESPNU
3/17 Virginia* 6:00 p.m. ESPNU
3/21 Michigan 4:00 p.m. ACC Network
3/25 @ Ohio State 12:00 p.m. ESPNU
3/31 @ Syracuse* 5:00 p.m. ESPNU
4/7 Duke* 4:00 p.m. ESPNU
4/11 @ Marquette 7:00 p.m. FS1
4/21 @ North Carolina* 12:00 p.m. ESPNU
4/27 ACC Semifinals TBA ESPNU
4/29 ACC Championship TBA ESPNU
5/5 Army West Point 1:00 p.m. ACC Network

* Conference Game

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