Duke, Notre Dame players downplay rematch talk

February 18, 2011|By Edward Lee, The Baltimore Sun

Sunday's contest between No. 4 Notre Dame and No. 10 Duke has been highly anticipated since the Blue Devils squeaked out a 6-5 overtime win over the Fighting Irish in the NCAA tournament final at M&T Bank Stadium last May.

In fact, the game, which is part of the Sunshine Classic in Jacksonville, Fla., and is being covered by ESPN, is the only one being broadcast on the sports network's primary channel until the first round of the NCAA tournament on May 15.

But for all of the hoopla surrounding the contest, the actual participants are downplaying any notion of a revenge game.

"We don't really look at it as a rematch," Notre Dame senior midfielder David Earl said. "A bunch of kids from each team graduated, so the teams really aren't the same. It's a new season. They got the best of us last year and won the national championship. We're just looking to have a good start this year, and our first game happens to be against Duke. And our teams are a lot different from last year. So it's not really a re-match."

Both teams lost several key players from last year's squads. Duke graduated Tewaaraton Award winner Ned Crotty and a pair of second-team All Americans in attackman Max Quinzani and defenseman Parker McKee.

The Fighting Irish said farewell to goalkeeper Scott Rodgers, the Most Outstanding Player of the NCAA tournament, and a pair of 20-goal scorers in midfielder Grant Krebs and attackman Neal Hicks.

That's why Blue Devils coach John Danowski chuckled when asked about the hype surrounding Sunday's meeting.

"If Scotty Rodgers was in the cage and Ned Crotty and Max Quinzani were running around, awesome," Danowski said. "… They're on the schedule that day, and that's when we play. The fact that we met in the finals really is inconsequential to us, especially at this point when we're just trying to figure out who's going to be on the field. It sounds like coach-speak, but it really is."

The contest is the season-opener for Notre Dame, while Duke is 1-0 after walloping Siena last Saturday. Paul Carcaterra, an analyst for ESPN and a former All-American midfielder at Syracuse, said a win is more valuable to the Blue Devils.

"Duke lost a ton of players, and their offensive approach will be drastically different based on personnel," said Carcaterra, who will provide color commentary during the game. "With all of their new, young faces, confidence early in the season is critical. This is an entirely new team. I think Notre Dame would be able to rally and pull things together if they lost. Duke needs this win for confidence and belief in its new players."

Not surprisingly, both teams moved in different directions after sophomore long-stick midfielder C.J. Costabile's game-winning goal five seconds into the extra session on that fateful Memorial Day.

Notre Dame embarked on a week-long trip to Japan to mentor a few college squads and learn about the culture. Earl said the trip was the best antidote for a team stunned by the loss in the title game.

"It was definitely a good situation," he said. "Getting away from everyone asking us how it felt and stuff like, 'Congratulations and sorry that you guys came up short,' it was good to get away from that. Having another week together as a final unit was fun. It was a new experience being in a different country."

The Duke players celebrated becoming the sport's first first-time NCAA titlist since Princeton did it in 1992. Banners were erected on campus, and former and current players reconvened in the fall to accept their championship rings and reminisce about the victory.

But Danowski said no one is talking about a repeat.

"They recognize that we're going to have to fight and scratch and practice every day to get better," he said. "And we say this every year, that there's no guarantee you're going to make the playoffs. Division I men's lacrosse is more competitive than ever. More better teams, more better coaches, more better players, and there are absolutely no guarantees that we'll play into May."

Christian Walsh, a freshman attackman for the Blue Devils, said the team is eager to secure a victory against a Fighting Irish squad that is becoming a national favorite to play on Memorial Day weekend again.

"It was good to get that first one under our belts, but you know that — even as a freshman — this game is going to be at a whole different level, playing Notre Dame," said Walsh, a Baltimore native and Boys' Latin graduate. "They're so talented and they returned a lot of senior players and senior defensemen that held Duke to just five goals last year. We're playing a lot of freshmen and a lot of sophomores who are expected to step up and score a lot of goals. So it'll be interesting to see how it goes."


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