January 28, 2012

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Time Well Spent: Notre Dame Learns From Practice With U.S.

by Corey McLaughlin | LaxMagazine.com | Champion Challenge Live Blog

Notre Dame scrimmaged Jacksonville Friday night and held a spirited combined practice with Team USA Saturday at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex.
© John Strohsacker/LaxPhotos.com

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. - As twilight arrived on a warm evening in central Florida, a sense of playfulness sprouted on the field where the U.S. men's national team held a fast-paced combined practice with the Notre Dame Fighting Irish.

Current Team USA and former Irish goaltender Scott Rodgers picked off a pass that traveled near his crease and came out with the ball. A Notre Dame offender whacked Rodgers across the body, to which teammate Doug Shanahan, the first winner of the men's Tewaaraton Award in 2001, yelled to no one in particular (since there were no officials), "That's a foul."

Notre Dame coach Kevin Corrigan disagreed. "There is no way a foul is being called for Rodgers. No way!" Corrigan yelled back in jest about the 2010 Most Outstanding Player of the NCAA tournament.

That was one of a few lighter moments, but the two-hour practice - and the Irish's three-day trip to Champion Challenge at the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex - also served a good precursor to the spring season, Corrigan said after the practice with Team USA ended.

Notre Dame had only nine practice days in South Bend before flying south to scrimmage Jacksonville on Friday night (a 12-6 win), and practice and scrimmage Saturday. The team was to hold a "glorified stretching session," on Sunday morning, Corrigan said, after the amount of work they put in over the weekend.

"We came down here to work and get better," Corrigan said. "We learned a lot about ourselves, things we can work on and get better at, and things we can build on. We put in a lot of stuff. It's clear we need more time with a lot of it and need a lot of refinement, but at the same time, it's early but we have a lot of things in. We've been able to work on those things against some good competition. Now we get to go home and we have three weeks before Duke. It's what we needed as a team. I'm happy to have the opportunity. Any time you get the guys to compete with guys like Team USA, who are so good, you learn a lot about yourself."

Saturday the U.S. and Notre Dame worked against each other in six-on-six drills on both ends of the field and man up, man down and full-field scrimmages.

Irish junior goaltender John Kemp looked particularly strong, even against the U.S.'s bevy of offensive talent, experience and stick skills. At one point, he matched Kevin Leveille, one of the game's great all-time inside finishers, on a series of high-low fakes. After being beaten once in transition by the duo of Casey Powell and former Virginia attackman Danny Glading, Kemp stopped the identical combination on the very next possession on a similar transition play.

"Kemp's terrific. He'll be playing with those guys one day," Corrigan said. "He's so poised."

Senior close defenseman Kevin Randall also stood out, at times going head-to-head with the explosive Chazz Woodson around the crease. Corrigan was generally pleased with his defense, but said the offense was inconsistent throughout the weekend. Notre Dame trailed Jacksonville, 3-2, on Friday night before pulling away in the final three quarters of that five-quarter scrimmage.

"We're a team that always builds form the defensive end out," he said. "You look at the goals we gave up, most of the things are correctable and almost silly in a couple cases. That's going to be our strength, and I think we can be a good transition team. Offensively, we didn't show it this weekend, but I think we can be a team that has a lot of different people that can contribute."

There are some new names to keep an eye on this spring: Conor Doyle, Jack Near Jr., Will Corrigan and Nick Ossello.

Doyle, who before heading to South Bend said he would consider playing attack or midfield as long as he was on the field, saw significant time on attack. Near is running short-stick defensive midfield and Corrigan, the coach's son, and Ossello are helping on faceoffs, although Liam O'Connor remains the team's primary faceoff taker.

"We can put them in roles and not ask them to do a ton of stuff," Corrigan said of the freshmen.

Notre Dame's regular season opener is Feb. 18 at home against Duke. The U.S. team plays Denver at 1:30 p.m. Sunday (live on ESPN3 and on the LaxMagazine.com live blog). The USA-Denver game Team USA's women's tilt against Northwestern at 11 a.m. will be re-aired starting at 10 p.m. Sunday on ESPNU.

A few other notes from the practice: Powell, who during a youth clinic earlier Saturday demonstrated outisde shooting skills to an appreciative crowd, showd no ill effects from the knee injury he suffered in last August's Major League Lacrosse title game. Powell collided violently with Paul Rabil in final seconds of that game and suffered a fractured right knee cap, although he first feared more serious ligament damage. The 35-year-old darted around the field Saturday and impressed. After one dodge, teammate Matt Striebel yelled from the sideline "CaseyPowell.com," meaning the move should be on the web instantly.

Late in the practice, Powell scored on an empty net after Woodson forced a turnover using a hard ride. "He does all the work and I get my name in the paper," Powell said.

There were teaching moments, too, by the U.S. group. USA faceoff specialist Chris Eck worked with the Irish's faceoff men: O'Connor, Corrigan and Ossello. At one point, Eck stopped taking faceoffs against them and instead showed them the tricks of his trade, demonstrating how to potentially beat him.

Team England Ties Syracuse Women

In Saturday's game first game, Team England surprised Syracuse and tied the Orange, 9-9.

In a wild finish, Syracuse sophomore attacker Alyssa Murray scored her third goal of the game to tie the score at eight with 43 seconds left. Becca Block then raced downfield off a draw control and scored eight seconds later to give the Orange a one-goal lead.

Syracuse won the ensuing draw, but turned it over with 15 seconds left and Sophie Brett went the other way and beat Orange freshman goaltender Kelsey Richardson on a bounce shot into the grass with 1.1 seconds left.

Orange sophomore attacker Alyssa Murray scored three goals, including one that tied the score at 8 with 43 seconds left. Syracuse tied England, 9-9.
© John Strohsacker/LaxPhotos.com

"We set something up, we executed with the go-ahead goal late. But then we turned around and gave it back to them, and that's something we can learn from," Syracuse coach Gary Gait said. "They won't forget that, the players who made that play, and they'll learn from it. Hopefully we'll be better prepared for it the next time we're in a close game.

"We have a laundry list of things that we can go back to in practice and work on," Gait said. "Lots to improve on — clearing, riding. I was real happy with the fact that we didn't give up, they worked hard until the end. We've really got to improve our lacrosse IQ and communication with each other. Those will be our focal points for the next few weeks."

Syracuse played without its best offensive player, Michelle Tumolo, because she is a member of Team USA and played for the red, white and blue this weekend.

In England's second game, it fell to Northwestern, 9-3. Sophomore attacker Kelly Rich had four goals, all assisted by freshman attacker Casey Bocklet. The Wildcats scored the final six goals.

Champion Challenge, a US Lacrosse Event

Syracuse 9, Team England Women 9

SU: 4 5 - 9
Eng: 5 4 - 9

Goals - SU: Murray 3, Webster 2, Holden 2, Collins 1, Block 1; Eng: Brett 3, Merrifield 2, Lynch 1, Brierly 1, Kirchheimer 1, Gray 1
Assists - S: Locey 1; Eng: Lynch 1, Barnsley 1
Saves - S: Daley 7, Richardson 4; Eng: Keogh 5, Gaunt 4

Northwestern 9, Team England Women 3

NW: 5 4 - 9
Eng: 3 0 - 3

Goals - NW: Rich 4, Fitzgerald 2, Bocklet 1, Lawler 1, Macaluso 1; Eng: Lynch 1, Merrifield 1, Gray 1
Assists - NW: Bocklet 4; Eng: Brierly 1
Saves - NW: LoManto 3, Bianco 3; Eng: Keogh 5, Gaunt 4


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