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Part 1 of Q&A with ESPN men's lacrosse analyst Paul Carcaterra

Paul Carcaterra had a front-row seat for No. 2 Notre Dame's 8-7 overtime win against Virginia as he provided color commentary for ESPN's broadcast Saturday night. The former Syracuse midfielder will next call Saturday's rivalry game between Atlantic Coast Conference foes Syracuse and Duke. Carcaterra, who can be followed on Twitter via @paulcarcaterra, offered his perspective on the Fighting Irish-Cavaliers contest, the Orange's resume, and the Syracuse-Duke tilt.

Does No. 2 Notre Dame look a little more human after a 9-8 overtime loss to No. 1 Denver on March 12 and the narrow win against Virginia?

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I think Notre Dame has an excellent defense that is going to be in every single game. I think right now, if I had to point to a couple things they need to improve on, one is finding another dodger to complement [junior midfielder] Sergio Perkovic. Last year, they really had four really elite dodging-type playmakers with Perkovic and [Nick] Ossello in the midfield and [Conor] Doyle and [senior attackman Matt] Kavanagh on attack. Right now, Perkovic's the only one who consistently breaks down a defense. I think Kavanagh is still getting his feet under him, and I don't know how healthy he is. So they're a dodger or two short offensively, and I think they're kind of limited in what they can do just in regards to getting the defense to initially commit and slide. Where it hasn't been a problem in the last few years, I feel like right now, they're in desperate need of a guy or two to really step up and take the pressure off of Perkovic. And the second thing that I've seen is that teams are going to start to slide really early to Sergio Perkovic. I think his feeding will be a telltale sign for the rest of the season in terms of the development of their offense. He only has two assists to date.

Will Virginia regret not escaping with that win against the Fighting Irish in terms of its profile for the NCAA tournament?

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Yeah, I think so. If you look at Virginia for the last couple of years, they always had a signature win or two early in the year – whether that was Loyola or Cornell or Hopkins. They've had these wins where they were in a situation where their record wasn't great, but they had beaten some teams that were stronger college lacrosse teams in the discussion for the tournament. So that just built Virginia's resume. Right now, they don't have a win on their schedule that they can hang their hat on. I think Saturday night was a perfect opportunity for them to get that win, but I just think they're not a confident team right now just because they have suffered some losses. I don't want to say the word fragile, but I think they need to get on track just to start believing in themselves. And I thought that Saturday night, they played their best defensive game of the year. [Junior goalkeeper] Matt Barrett showed some real nice flashes. They're a good team. If you look at their statistics, they're out-ground balling everyone, they're over 60 percent at the faceoff X, they outshoot teams, they clear pretty well. It's so puzzling how they're not able to win games because statistically, they're doing really well.

Despite the 11-10 overtime loss at No. 7 Johns Hopkins on Saturday, would it be fair to say that No. 5 Syracuse is still the third-best team in Division I?

I'm not convinced. I think there are probably five or six teams in that discussion. I think there's five or six teams in the discussion for being No. 1 or No. 2 right now. As good as Denver is, Duke had them against the ropes and Air Force had them against the ropes and Notre Dame had them against the ropes. So it's not like they've just been absolutely blowtorching teams. Denver is a deserving No. 1 team in the nation right now, but I just think there's a handful of teams in the mix to win the national championship. So between No. 3 and No. 9, there's not really that much of a difference to me. Syracuse hasn't really been tested to date either. They played [No. 16] Army earlier in the year, they played [No. 10] Albany earlier in the year, and they just haven't played the real strong teams to get a sense of if they're elite. I think these next few weeks will dictate that. I think this Duke game on Saturday is just a huge game to see how they respond off the loss. Duke is really starting to click after that Richmond loss. They blitzed [No. 17] Loyola, they blitzed Georgetown. This is a team that always finds an identity at this time of the year, and if you look at their roster, they've got the players. I wouldn't be totally shocked if they go on a little run here.

Is the Atlantic Coast Conference showdown between Syracuse and Duke on Saturday the matchup you are anticipating the most?

Yeah, I think so. I think it's going to answer a lot of questions, too. Which Duke is this? Is this the team that we've seen in the last few days that had huge offensive outputs against Loyola and Georgetown or are they the team that lost against [No. 15] Harvard and Richmond? And for Syracuse, this is an ACC game on the road. This is a team that lost five of their six top scorers. I like what they're doing offensively. I think Kevin Donahue, their offensive coordinator, is a great teacher of offense and gets the most out of them, and they move the ball really well. I think for Syracuse, [senior goalkeeper] Warren Hill hasn't really been tested on the road outside of Virginia, and he stepped up late in that game. And then [junior] Ben Williams needs to win these bigger second-half faceoffs. As good as he is – and statistically, he's been dominant – teams have gotten to him late in games. You saw it last year, and we saw it on Saturday. The guys from Hopkins did really well against him in the second half. So I think for me, Syracuse needs to continue to get some midfield scoring. [Redshirt junior] Sergio Salcido, [junior Nick] Mariano, [redshirt sophomore] Matt Lane, those guys need to put up the offense and give [redshirt senior attackman] Dylan Donahue and [senior attackman Tim] Barber some space. Those two are outstanding lacrosse players, and as long as the midfield steps up, that offense is going to put up points. The question for me is, who guards [Duke senior midfielder] Myles Jones? Do you bump [redshirt senior defenseman] Brandon Mullins up there? Down low, I would think you feel pretty comfortable with Nick Mellen. He's about as good a freshman defenseman in the country. Duke's offense off-ball has always given teams trouble, and I think Myles is a true quarterback from the midfield.

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