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Notre Dame midfielder Tyler Kimball (Gilman)

Big East Conference Syracuse (8-7) vs. St. John's (8-6) at Villanova, Saturday The inaugural Big East tournament has two huge storylines: the downward slide of Syracuse and Notre Dame's ascension nationally. The Orange is down to its final lifeline, with a faulty resume that makes the automatic qualifier a must. "It's do or die. We can be better, the attitude is pretty good, don't want to be tight, play loose," coach John Desko said before his team beat Villanova, 15-6, in the Big East semifinals Thursday night. "The Orange are 23rd in D-I in scoring, producing 10.31 goals per game — and that's bumped by a 19-goal performance against Rutgers," says Terry Foy of Inside Lacrosse. " 'Cuse has been limited to eight or fewer goals in four games this season — and lost them all." Notre Dame, meanwhile, was stunningly bounced from the Big East tournament by St. John's, 8-7, on Thursday but is still a lock for the NCAA tournament. The Irish's success has been building for more than a decade. Coach Kevin Corrigan has built the Fighting Irish into a national powerhouse, with two NCAA championship weekend appearances. His team has qualified for six straight NCAA tournaments. The Irish are the No. 1-rated team in RPI. After their lone loss this regular season, an overtime decision against Penn State on Feb. 26, they won 10 straight games. The Irish haven't surrendered more than 10 goals in any contest this spring and have the nation's best defense, allowing only 5.8 goals per game. "The biggest thing that stands out to me about the Notre Dame defense is that as a unit, they are relentless on every possession," says ESPN announcer Joe Beninati. "I haven't seen anyone take a shift off." The Notre Dame defense relies on teamwork. "One man can't cost us a goal," says Corrigan.
Joseph Weiser, Baltimore Sun
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