Preview: Colonials look to gain a little bit of luck against Irish

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Men’s lacrosse gears up for a match with no. 8 Notre Dame on Saturday. Photo Credit: Avin Patel

By Adam Melluso, Contributor

SOUTH BEND, Ind.–The Robert Morris men’s lacrosse team (1-2) looks to finish their non-conference slate of the 2021 season on a strong note as they head into the Hoosier State for a matchup against one of the most storied programs in the NCAA in the no. 8-ranked Notre Dame Fighting Irish. Before both sides square off in this huge tilt, let’s take a look at what side needs to do to pick up a victory and get their season rolling on the right foot.

Recapping Robert Morris

RMU is coming off of a gritty win this past Sunday on the road in upstate New York, as the Colonials knocked off Patriot League member Colgate (0-1) 17-14. Fifth-year senior Ryan Smith and senior Corson Kealey led the team in the win with five and three goals, respectively, and netminder Ben Savick stood tall in the cage to ensure that RMU achieved an emphatic victory.

The Colonials were scheduled to play this past Tuesday as well against Bellarmine (1-2), but the contest was postponed due to COVID-19 concerns within the Knights program, forcing them to pause all team activities for two weeks. The matchup has since been rescheduled to March 2.

This will be the second time in program history the Colonials head to South Bend, looking to right the wrongs of 4/12/14 where they were trounced 15-5 by the Irish.

Previewing Notre Dame:

The Irish have established a tradition of consistent winning success within most of their programs, and lacrosse is no exception, despite Saturday’s matchup kicking off their 2021 campaign.

Last season was a bit abbreviated, as the Irish composed a 2-3 record over a shortened span of games. However, in 2018-19 they stormed through the ACC, earning a winning 9-7 season and making it all the way to the conference title game, before falling to Virginia 10-4. They then advanced with an at-large bid to the 2019 NCAA Tournament, beating Johns Hopkins 16-9 before losing a heartbreaker in the second round to Duke 14-13 in overtime. Bottom line, this team has proven scorers and a track record of making opponents pay early. The Colonials will need a solid overall effort to force a major upset.

Players to Watch

Ryan Smith (RMU) – Smith’s offensive prowess speaks for itself and there is a reason why he has been one of the hottest scorers in college lacrosse and has gotten the pro world to take notice. The 3rd overall pick in last year’s National Lacrosse League (NLL) Entry Draft by the Rochester Knighthawks is a threat all over the field and he proved emphatically why his professional career will last a long time, possibly breaking records along the way. Smith had the aforementioned five goals in the win at Colgate, so if the Irish cannot cover him defensively early on, Smith will make them pay wholeheartedly and could very well lead RMU to what would be a monumental upset for their program.

Pat Kavanagh (ND) – The sophomore attackman from Rockville Centre, New York made quite the impression last year for the blue and gold in the ACC, leading the team in scoring with 10 goals and was tied with teammate Griffin Westlin in terms of overall points with 16. If the Colonials cannot pressure Kavanagh early and force him off the ball quickly from the opening face-off, it will be a long night trying to limit his scoring chances and open looks for RMU.

Prediction

Surprisingly, I feel that this will be a close matchup throughout all four quarters, with RMU coming very close, but falling just short and losing 13-11. However, this team has many offensive weapons on their side so do not be surprised if they upset another highly touted squad (such as Virginia on March 20) over the course of this season.