Quint Kessenich: Breaking down the NCAA men's lacrosse final
By By Quint Kessenich
May 25, 2014 | 6:08 PM
Notre Dame is a battle-tested team, and most importantly, the Fighting Irish has averaged 12 goals per game in its recent six-game winning streak.
Ranked No. 11 in scoring offense and No. 24 in scoring defense, Notre Dame is a different team than the one that lost, 15-7, to Duke in early April.
The Atlantic Coast Conference champions have terrific depth. The Fighting Irish is built for the Memorial Day men's lacrosse championship, and it already experienced the quick turnaround while winning the ACC tournament last month.
Notre Dame coach Kevin Corrigan relies on left-hander Matt Kavanagh for clutch goals. The sophomore had five goals and two assists in the Fighting Irish's 11-6 win over Maryland in the semifinal Saturday.
And junior attackman Conor Doyle (Gilman) and senior attackman John Scioscia complement Kavanagh perfectly. Doyle is a deceptively explosive dodger, while Sciosia roams the crease area looking for quick shots.
Corrigan also has a deep stable of midfielders — he played 14 against the Terps. Junior Jack Near and senior Tyler Brenneman are premier two-way midfielders.
While Notre Dame has always been built on a foundation of stout defense, this roster can light up the scoreboard, scoring in transition from defense to offense.
"We have learned to make the right decisions in early offense," Corrigan said.
Goalie Conor Kelly was sharp Saturday, making 14 saves against Maryland.
The duo of Liam O'Conor and Nick Ossello gives Corrigan some solution-finders in the faceoff battle against Duke's Brendan Fowler. The Fighting Irish have done a terrific job of pressing out after a lost faceoff and creating turnovers.
Notre Dame also employs a 10-man ride, full-court press, which came in handy when it trailed Albany, 12-7, in the NCAA quarterfinals. The Fighting Irish believes it's a team of destiny.
Duke won the national title over the Fighting Irish in 2010, and the defending champions have won 12 of their last 13 games.
In that span, the Blue Devils' offense has been unstoppable behind Jordan Wolf and Myles Jones, and their top six players have more than 40 points. The Blue Devils have a lethal mix of speed, power, skill, IQ and unselfishness.
Coach John Danowski's squad ranks second in the country in scoring offense and 27th in scoring defense. The veteran defensive unit hasn't been sealed tight lately, though, surrendering 59 goals in Duke's past five games — nearly 12 goals per game.
"Communication is key," Danowski said. "Our defense must have a constant conversation and cover the low pipes while working like gears with each other."
The Blue Devils defeated Stony Brook and Marquette with only one day of rest earlier this spring, so they've made this quick turnaround already. But watch for fatigue because it's going to be very hot on the field, and Duke isn't deep.
Goalie Luke Aaron (.503 save percentage) has been pulled late in consecutive games in favor of left-hander Kyle Turri (.471). Danowski looks at Aaron as the starter and Turri as his reliever. The lack of quality saves is a major issue for Duke.
Face-offs are not. Fowler is a proven commodity, and he took home the Most Valuable Player trophy last year after dominating Syracuse in the final.
Duke's advantage is their first midfield line of Myles Jones, Christian Walsh (Boys' Latin) and Deemer Class (Loyola). Jones is a difficult match-up at 6 feet 4 and 240 pounds. Class and Walsh are both left-handed.
Class can bury the mid-range shot, and Walsh is the calming force of the trio. The senior sets excellent screens, keeps the ball hot, can sting a corner if given too much room and organizes from up top.
Duke's offensive schemes aren't overly complex, but the Blue Devils' execution has been on point.
And finally, the Hollywood movie script Monday could be written about former U.S. Army Ranger and current Duke defender Casey Carroll, who gets to play lacrosse on Memorial Day.
Carroll, 29, was a member of the class of 2007 that received an extra year of eligibility from the NCAA when Duke canceled the rest of its season in the aftermath of the 2006 scandal involving a stripper's accusations of rape.
Carroll served as a Ranger in the Middle East from 2008 to 2012, and he returned to Duke last year to earn a graduate degree and play lacrosse but tore his anterior cruciate ligament.