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THE BIG PREVIEW: No. 9 Virginia vs No. 4 Notre Dame square off in ACC lacrosse matchup

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Can the Hoos finally get that elusive ACC win?

Jaclyn Borowski

What’s more fitting than a matchup with the Fighting Irish on St. Patrick’s day? The No. 9 Virginia men’s lacrosse team is facing off with No. 4 Notre Dame (3-1) tonight on ESPNU as the Hoos continue searching for their first ACC win since 2014. The women’s squad (ranked No. 7 in the nation) downed Notre Dame 17-10 in the afternoon matchup, highlighted by this outstanding fast break:

The Virginia men are 6-1 on the season, but 0-1 in the ACC thanks to a last-second loss to Syracuse two weeks ago. Virginia is coming off of a 15-14 win over Stony Brook, but have lost the last two matchups with the Fighting Irish (both in overtime). Things are considerably tougher for the Hoos this season after losing Ryan Conrad to a season-ending knee injury, but his impact will be greater felt on the defensive end and on clears.

Let’s check out the matchup.

When Notre Dame has the ball

The starting attack trio of Brendan Gleason, Mikey Wynne, and Brian Willetts is a formidable bunch. Gleason is tied for first on the team with points (12) and second in goals with eight. He is an incredibly accurate shooter, connecting on 53% of his attempts. Wynne and reserve Ryder Garnsey each have six goals and three assists, with Willetts adding four goals and an assist this season. Garnsey, you may remember, scored the game-winning goal the last time the two teams matched up. He’s only started one game this season, but gets a lot of playing time.

In the midfield, Bryan Costabile is a dangerous scorer with a team-high 10 goals and starters Pierre Byrne and Brendan Collins each have two goals apiece on the season. Expect Costabile to pick up the fourth long pole and Gleason to potentially draw the attention of Scott Hooper.

Hooper has 12 caused turnovers for the Hoos this season, with first years Kyle Kology and Will Rock have eight and seven, respectively.

As a team, Notre Dame is averaging 10.5 goals per game, while the Virginia defense is allowing 11.1. The Irish only take 29 shots per game, but convert 36% of them.

When Virginia has the ball

The Hoos have four players scoring in double digits, led by first year Ian Laviano with a team-high 19 goals. Second year Michael Kraus has 18 goals and 16 assists for a team-high 34 points, and Virginia’s third attackman, Mike D’Amario, has 12 goals.

Midfielder Dox Aitken has been impressive with 15 goals and six assists through seven games.

Defensively, Jack Kielty, Hugh Crance, and Arden Cohen anchor the Irish and have a combined 10 turnovers through four games. Keep an eye out for a familiar name as former UVA defensive midfielder Carlson Milikin is now playing for the Irish as a grad transfer. He has just one ground ball and two caused turnovers, but is a tough defender. As a team, Notre Dame is holding opponents to just 8.75 goals per game.

Specialists

Against Stony Brook, Virginia face off specialist Justin Schwenk made the Wahoo record books by recording his second 20+ face of win game of the season, joining the Princeton game where he won 25. Schwenk won 22-of-30 face offs against the Sea Wolves, and will be going against Notre Dame’s John Travisano (37-of-74 on the season). For the season, Schwenk has won 107-of-164 (65%) from the X, and he will be crucial if the Hoos want to pull the upset.

In cage, it’s not certain whether Griffin Thompson or Alex Rode will get the start. Both have excelled at times this season, and both have struggled. The duo comes in at around a 52% save percentage, but Thompson has the slight advantage in goals against (9.5 to Rode’s 12.7). For the Irish, Matt Schmidt has an impressive 8.99 goals against average, but is only saving 48% of shots faced.

Face off is at 6pm, and the game will be televised by ESPNU and online on ACC Network Extra.