Welcome to "Extreme Makeover: Dome Edition."
For years, the Notre Dame men's lacrosse program was known for strong defenses that anchored tight wins.
The 2014 squad, led in part by junior attackman Conor Doyle (Gilman) and senior midfielder Jim Marlatt (River Hill), earning a new label: offensive juggernaut.
- Quint Kessenich: Previewing the NCAA semifinals
- 2014 Federation of International Lacrosse World Championships [Pictures]
- 2014 NCAA Lacrosse Final Four coverage
- 2014 local men's college lacrosse [Pictures]
- National lacrosse Players of the Week 2014 season
- Quint Kessenich's college lacrosse stock watch
See more photos »
In their last four games, the Fighting Irish have a combined 60 goals — including 27 in two NCAA tournament games. Only top-seeded and reigning national champion Duke (39 goals) has scored more in the postseason.
No longer reliant on the defense, sixth-seeded Notre Dame (11-5) — which will meet seventh-seeded Maryland (13-3) in the second of two national semifinals Saturday at 3:30 p.m. at M&T Bank Stadium — is diving into unfamiliar waters.
"We do have a certain confidence," Doyle said. "I think we have been playing pretty loose recently. We're on a [five-game] winning streak now, and I think that just adds to our confidence."
Fans have not seen this kind of display on offense since 2008, the last time the Irish scored a total of 60 goals in a four-game span. .
The Fighting Irish have at least 15 goals in six games this season, which is the most since the 2008 team also did it six times. And the current squad has averaged 12.1 goals, which would tie the number recorded in 2008 and is tied for No. 11 in the nation.
This year's squad features Doyle, a Towson native who is the only player on the roster to register at least one point in every contest this spring, and sophomore attackman Matt Kavanagh, whose 65 points (35 goals and 30 assists) are the most by a Notre Dame player since Tom Glatzel had 40 goals and 27 assists in 2001.
The attack has gotten some aid from the midfield. Freshman Sergio Perkovic has boosted his output, averaging 2.0 points in the team's five-game winning streak after averaging 1.5 points in the first 11 contests. Senior Jim Marlatt (River Hill) has compiled seven points over that same stretch.
"Our middies are stepping up," Kavanagh said. Opposing defenses "are on me and Conor, kind of shutting us off and playing pressure. So it gives the middies a lot more room to work. So we have to work around them and give them some shots, and they've been falling."
An unlikely source for offense has been a defense savvy enough to convert turnovers and stops into transition opportunities. That development is embodied by junior short-stick defensive midfielder Jack Near, who has nine goals and five assists and is on a six-game point streak.
"In years past, we would just try and get possession of the ball after we got a stop by the defense and set up our offense and we'd go into it," said Doyle, who has 30 goals and 15 assists. "This year, when the defensive middies cross midfield, we're attacking right away. I think that's made a difference for us."
ESPN analyst Mark Dixon said the credit for the offense's makeover should go to coach Kevin Corrigan.
"They've just taken the reins off that offense," Dixon said. "I think Kevin Corrigan is a tremendous coach, and he's smart enough to realize that sometimes you need to get out of the way and you need to just let your kids play. And I think that's what Notre Dame has done, and it has been fun to watch because those guys can sling it and they can get up and down the field."
For his part, Corrigan is quick to point out that this is the same offense that opened the season with 19 goals on Jacksonville, 11 on North Carolina and 18 on Virginia in the team's first three wins.
"We've been productive offensively on and off all year, but just like every team, we're going through the throes of a season and learning when people defend us well or do something against us that causes us problems or when somebody on our team is struggling, where do you go next and what do you do next," he said. "So I don't look at it the same way you do because I remember beating Maryland, 6-5, [in an ACC tournament semifinal on April 25] in probably the biggest game of the year for us. You're playing the game you're playing. That's the biggest thing."
"If you look at the number of goals they've been scoring lately, they are a different team," he said. "I think they're attacking so much more in unsettled situations, transition. So that's something that is concerning to us. We've got to make sure that we understand that this is not the team that we played a month ago in terms of style and maybe some of the things that they're doing."