For the second year in a row the Notre Dame Fighting Irish men's lacrosse team opened with strong competition in the defending national champion Duke Blue Devils. Last season the Irish prevailed in Durham, NC with an 11-7 win. New year, same result.
For good measure, the Irish tallied one more goal than last year's game to give head coach Kevin Corrigan and his No. 6 ranked team a 12-7 victory over the No. 5 Blue Devils. Highlights can be found here.
In front of more than 8,000 fans on Sunday, Feb. 20 the Irish and Blue Devils squared off in the inaugural Sunshine Classic in Jacksonville, FL at Everbank Stadium.
Duke had cruised in its season opener against Siena 20-6 but looked tense in yesterday's matchup against a Notre Dame team led by five preseason All-Americans in midfielders Zach Brenneman and David Earl, defensemen Kevin Ridgway and Sam Barnes, and longstick midfielder Andrew Irving.
After a scoreless and fairly passive first period the Blue Devils put two goals on the board early in the second with goals from Tom Rynn and Josh Offit. Notre Dame responded in quick fashion with three goals.
Sean Rogers netted the first goal with a beautiful one-handed wrap-around from behind the goal to beat Blue Devils netminder Dan Wigrizer. A mere 20 seconds later Rogers added another goal to even up the score.
It was Wigrizer, a true freshman at the time, who helped the Blue Devils win their first national championship with a 6-5 OT victory over the Irish in last year's title game.
But Wigrizer was not at his best today as he allowed seven goals on 13 shots before being pulled late in the fourth period.
Notre Dame received scoring support from a veteran supporting cast and a sprinkling of newer talent. Westy Hopkins, a freshman attacker, scored two goals to help the Irish cause. Senior Andrew Irving also notched two goals for the Irish.
Star senior midfielder Zach Brenneman registered a career-high five-point game on three goals and two assists. The hat trick matched his previous goal scoring accomplishments against the Blue Devils last season.
Perhaps the brightest star of the day in an Irish uniform was sophomore John Kemp, the starter in goal tasked with replacing former All-American Scott Rodgers. Kemp finished with 10 saves on 17 shots. Many of the shots were taken point blank, but Kemp flashed his quickness and strength to prevent an offensive explosion from the Blue Devils.
By halftime the Irish held a 4-2 lead and managed to build on the differential throughout each of the remaining periods, netting a high mark of five goals in the final period of play.
The game was one of four televised regular season contests on the season featuring Notre Dame. Other televised games include April 10 against Georgetown (12pm EST on ESPNU), April 30 at Syracuse (7pm EST on ESPNU), and May 6 at North Carolina (7pm EST on ESPNU).
Speaking of North Carolina, with the No. 4 Tar Heels losing to unranked Ohio State yesterday the Irish climbed to No. 4 in the Inside Lacrosse media poll released today.
After opening the season with a gritty but eventual exhibition loss against Team USA the Irish now sit at 1-0 in the regular season.
Next Sunday the Irish travel to State College, PA to take on the Penn State Nittany Lions.