The first game of the Big City Classic college lacrosse event started off competitively as St. John’s brought their A-game against Notre Dame for the first three quarters.
Both defenses were stingy and created turnovers with regularity. The ground ball play was frantic and both teams were able to get good transition opportunities off of loose ball play, even if scoring chances weren’t always taken advantage of. Notre Dame eventually took home the win, 13-6, off a strong second half effort.
Notre Dame used good dodging from their midfielders to generate additional quality second half goals, and midfield scoring and initiation was a key difference in the game. When St. John’s did beat their man, the ND defense was often able to recover and only allow a 12-14 yard shot. ND’s goalie, John Kemp, was up to the task on these shots and he allows the ND defense to play in, closer to the cage, with his excellent outside shot stopping ability.
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With just under 12 minutes to play in the game, Notre Dame had overcome a first half deficit and built up a somewhat comfortable 4 goal lead at 9-5. Within one minute the score had increased to 11-5 and the threat of a comeback against the conservative Irish defense became even less likely.
On offense, Notre Dame shared the ball well, waited for good match ups and then capitalized on chances, focusing on fundamentally strong shooting. If Notre Dame struggled in any one area, it was dodging and dumping. The dump pass was often on point, but guys were shooting or moving before they caught the ball.
Overall, Notre Dame didn’t really look like the better team until the second half, but when they stepped it up, the differences became quite apparent. ND was able to make good on their dodges from up top, and when they were forced to cycle the ball, they were confident and consistent.
St. John’s is a dangerous team, and Notre Dame seemed very aware of that fact. ND played the long game, played conservatively, and walked away with a pretty convincing win. We didn’t see a ton of highlight plays, but it was still a fun game to watch, especially if you enjoy tactical play. Both teams played hard, smart lacrosse, and for the first half it seemed like an upset could be in the making. However, Notre Dame once again proved that their masterful approach to the conservative style of lacrosse can work in a major way.
All photos by Tommy Gilligan.