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Southern Challenge

Jan 31, 2013, 4:49 PM EDT

Coach Byrne, former Irish and current USA goalie Scott Rodgers and Coach Karweck. Coach Byrne, former Irish and current USA goalie Scott Rodgers and Coach Karweck.

For most Notre Dame students, this past weekend was much of the same in good ole wintry South Bend: avoiding the south quad wind tunnel, inventing new clothing styles to add more layers, begging cab drivers for dorm-side drop offs. While most of us were dreaming of life south of the Mason-Dixon, head coach Kevin Corrigan and the men’s lacrosse team headed to Florida for a set of exhibition matches against Jacksonville and Team USA.

Although the players enjoyed the weather, this trip was no vacation. With the season opener against Duke on the horizon, this trip was all business for the Irish. Between film sessions, three practices, two scrimmages, and a Sunday clinic, there was very little down time.

“Down time consisted of napping,” said senior midfileder Quinn Cully. “We had maybe two hours of free time during the day. Napping and eating some Panera, that was about it.”

The Irish believe they showed up well, but for Senior goalie John Kemp and his teammates, the weekend exhibitions were not so much about playing well as they were about getting quality work against good competition.

Kemp noted, “Going into the trip, Coach Corrigan stressed that we were going to get a feel for who can play, get some live game experience, and see who we are as a team.”

As one would expect, after months of offseason training and inter-squad practices, the team relished the opportunity to match up against a different opponent. Team USA and Jacksonville each gave the Irish a unique challenge. The Team USA matchup, in particular, meant playing against some of the best talent in America.

“Every guy on the field has a great matchup on the field the whole game,” noted Coach Corrigan. “Being experienced guys, they’re so good and smart and crafty that if you make a mistake, they see it and make you pay for it.”

While the individual talent of Team USA certainly stood out to the Irish, Cully and his teammates were also impressed by the overall unit of Jacksonville.

“Obviously Team USA is a great team with a lot of experience, but the one thing they lack is that they don’t play as a team year-round. So it’s good to get a matchup against individuals like them, who are amazing, and then a team like Jacksonville that does practice year-round as a team.”

With all of the individual talent on the Irish squad, including five members on the ALL-BIG EAST Preseason Team, the Irish hope to mesh this talent with fluid team chemistry. They certainly have the potential to do so. Because of this potential, there is plenty of pre-season hype surrounding the team. They are ranked #3 nationally in both the Nike/Inside Lacrosse Media Poll and the USILA Coaches Poll.

For Coach Corrigan, however, the preseason hype means very little for the upcoming season.

“It’s more of a recognition of what our team did last year. This team has to go out and earn its own stripes.”

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