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Syracuse Lacrosse: The Notre Dame Preview

Syracuse will visit Notre Dame on Saturday for its third ACC game and a coveted #1 vs. #2 matchup. The Irish sit at 5-1 after blanking Ohio State last week, while the Orange remain undefeated through seven games. This weekend's game may be a preview of the ACC Championship game, or even the National Championship.

Jim Rogash/Getty Images

First off there has been a lot of news concerning the SU lacrosse team this week, so here are some TNIAAM lacrosse related materials for your pleasure:

The Notre Dame Fighting Irish sit second in the nation behind the Syracuse Orange. The Irish have compiled a 5-1 record including a shutout of the Ohio State Buckeyes last weekend. Just to understand how rare a shutout is, the last time Syracuse blanked a team was back in 1973, and this was just the second time in Notre Dame history the Irish have done it. Notre Dame's only loss came in a 10-11 overtime loss at the Denver Pioneers.

The Orange are coming off of a huge 19-7 win against the Duke Blue Devils. Syracuse is 8-2 against the Irish all-time, but fell 14-15 in the last matchup during the ACC Championship game. In the last two seasons, Syracuse is 3-1 against Notre Dame, meeting in both the 2013 Big East Championship game and the 2014 ACC Championship game. Both programs are currently undefeated in league play, and this game is really about seeding for the ACC Tournament.

Basically, these are two teams running on all cylinders colliding; it could make for the best regular season game in division I this year.

Notre Dame

Last year Matt Kavnagh put up one of the best seasons of any attackman in Notre Dame history, putting away 42 goals and 33 assists in 2014. The two-time USILA All-American honoree has 13 goals and 14 assists through six games and 150 points in his three years at Notre Dame. Kavanagh has developed into a dynamic attackman, he likes to shoot from the wing and can cause significant damage as a dodger, but can also make excellent feeding passes. Let's go to the whiteboard real quick so I can show you visually how Kavanagh likes to play.

Generally Kavanagh likes to get the ball at Position A, his starting position that is located about goal-line extended. He is a lefty and really prefers to play and shoot on that right side of the field to give him a better angle when he shoots. No matter what move he makes, he does his best to test the defense to find an opening. First, he may take the ball up and around the box towards Position B. If the defense is in a zone he will try and penetrate right at the elbow to see if he can split the two defenders at the weak spot, or if the slide comes and the elbow is impenetrable he will continue towards Position B to attempt to get a step on a sliding midfielder and get around the corner to cut towards the goal. Because the defense positions itself towards him when he has the ball, he may draw that right side defender enough to reverse the ball back to the attackman rotating up who fills in just above Position A at the wing. Kavanagh likes to run question mark dodges from goal-line extended on both sides of the field. Therefore we may see him try and test his defender and dodge up from the goal-line. If the slide comes from the crease to push him back out and the second slide from the opposite side of the crease is late, he looks for a pass into the center of the box. Of course, as I mentioned, he likes to shoot from the wing, so if he can't penetrate on foot or by pass to the crease, he will pull back into that question mark move and look for a shot from the wing. The third common move Kavanagh likes to pull is similar to the last, except that he takes the ball around the back of the net. In this scenario, the defender has to watch the pick behind the net. When he tries the same move from the opposite goal-line extended, instead of looking for the shot on a question mark dodge he comes back down below goal-line extended and look for the attackman on the opposite side of the crease. If the far side defender who slid towards the crease to fill the spot vacated by the first slide is slow at getting back, the attackman who receives the pass may be able to make a quick two step run up above goal-line extended and get a crease shot opportunity.

Against Syracuse in the ACC Tournament, Kavanagh had four goals and two assists but was held goalless versus the ‘Cuse in the regular season. Although Kavanagh leads the Irish in groundballs with 12, he also leads the team in turnovers with 13. You can see everything we just talked about in the video below.

Fourth year starter Conor Doyle is more of a finisher on the attack. The senior out of Towson, MD, was the leading scorer for the attack on Saturday against Ohio State. Doyle has 10 goals on 21 shots and five assists to boot and in his four-year career Doyle has put up 74 goals and 115 points. Mikey Wynne is the third starting attackman. Inside Lacrosse named Wynne the fourth best incoming freshman this past summer and the freshman has not disappointed as the leading scorer on Notre Dame with 19 goals and one assist. We may see Kyle Runyon rotate into the attack in place of Wynne and Doyle on Saturday. The senior has just one assist this year.

Syracuse's Brandon Mullins will take on Kavanagh this weekend. The Orange defense has become very physical with Mullins leading the way putting big hits on offensive players all year.


The first line for Notre Dame consists of Sergio Perkovic, Will Corigan, and Nick Ossello. The sophomore Perkovic had a great freshman year finishing with 28 goals and five assists. In his second year he has had 12 goals and four assists. Perkovic is a known as a dodger and when he shoots he is able to use his massive frame to get off a rocket of a shot. Check out the video below to see him burn Duke's Luke Aaron for five goals in the 2014 National Championship game. Corrigan is the third starting midfielder, as a senior he has had a goal and two assists.

Jack Near is known as one of the best defensive midfielders in the country. He is incredible in transition and has five points and eight groundballs on the year but did not play against Ohio State. It is unclear if Near will be on the field against Syracuse but if he is then it adds a very good short stick defender to the mix for the Irish.

With 50 starts under his belt, graduate student Jim Marlott has not started a game this year. In the 2014 ACC Championship game he burned the Orange for three goals and an assist but has just three goals and three assists in 2015.

On the other side, Syracuse is so deep at the midfield position and we really saw that on Sunday against Duke. Henry Schoonmaker has five goals over the last two games and has really started to heat up with the loss of Randy Staats on attack.


Notre Dame uses two faceoff guys. Nick Ossello has taken the most attempts at the X, going 30-69. Ossello is not a FOGO by any means. In 2014 he played on the second midfield line but moved up to the first midfield line this year. Ossello has six goals and three assists. P.J. Finley, the second faceoff guy for Notre Dame has gone 32-58 this year. I would think that the Irish would switch between its two guys just to try and keep Ben Williams off balance, but Finley may get most of the starts if Notre Dame wants to save Ossello to play more as a true midfielder.

Williams has been great for Syracuse this year. When he faces off there are several things to watch. First, Williams is so quick on the clamp. It may be that he has the timing down on the opening count or simply that he just has insane reflexes, either way he's been gotten down on the ball incredibly quickly. Second, after the clamp Williams drags the ball out behind him. When this happens notice how he positions his body, it's like watching a center box out a defender in basketball.

If Williams has a weak spot its on the initial pass off of faceoff wins. Out of 105 faceoff wins, Williams has 69 groundballs, presumably all of which were grabbed on wins to himself. Out of those 69 times Williams has gotten the ball off of a faceoff win, he has seven turnovers. Therefore, because he is only on the field on faceoffs, it's reasonable to say that when Williams wins a faceoff to himself, he turns the ball over about 10% of the time.


The Irish's best defenseman is, by far, Matt Landis, a second year starter as a junior. Landis was a third team preseason All-American to start the year, but could find himself on the first team at the end of the year. Landis has 11 groundballs and three caused turnovers this year. The junior will be guarding Kevin Rice this weekend, and it will be very interesting to see how Landis handles the best attackman in the country.

Sophomore Garrett Epple was rated as the 15th best incoming defenseman by Inside Lacrosse and started the last seven games of 2014 and has been the starter in 2015. In his sophomore year Epple has 21 groundballs and 10 caused turnovers. Epple is 11th in division I in caused turnovers with 1.67 CTs per game. Overall, Notre Dame is 7th in caused turnovers per game with 8.17. The third starting defenseman for Notre Dame is Edwin Glazener, a junior out of La Jolla, CA. As a first year starter, Glazener has eight groundballs and three caused turnovers. Normally I would expect Epple to be gurading the #2 attackman but because Donahue is less of a traditional ball handler and more of a finisher, Epple may be put on Barber. Epple's aggressive style and talent for causing turnovers could be a problem for Barber who is getting just his second start at attack.

It is so important for the Notre Dame defenseman to put sticks on the hands of the Syracuse attackmen. Duke didn't do that all game and it showed in the score. Notre Dame was aggressive against Ohio State keeping the OSU offense on the edges of the box for the most part of the game. While the Buckeyes made a lot of mistakes on offense, giving up 22 turnovers, don't discount the effect that Irish defense had on them. Again I will say that if Jack Near plays on Saturday he can help out the defense big time by locking down the top offensive midfielder on the field. With Staats out, Rice hampered by Landis, and Near taking out the best Syracuse midfielder, Notre Dame may be able to limit the damage caused by the Syracuse offense.


Notre Dame had problems finding a steady goaltender last year. Conor Kelly made 11 starts and Shane Doss made 7. Notre Dame couldn't get continuous, steady outings from either goalie and several times last year the starter had to be pulled. It seems like the duo are having similar troubles this year. After making five saves and giving up eight goals in just over 36 minutes of play versus Georgetown in UND's first game of the year, Kelly was pulled in favor of Doss. A sophomore out of Glen Ridge, NJ, Shane Doss now has five starts this year with a 6.95 GAA and is fifth in the nation with a .611 save percentage. After blanking Ohio State, it's an easy call to start him against Syracuse.

The Orange will visit South Bend to take on the Notre Dame Fighting Irish on Saturday at 12:00 pm. The game can be seen on ESPNU and heard on WTKW 99.5 FM. Of course you can also follow me @Orangelax for updates throughout the game.