2012 Final Regular-Season Rank: 5 2012 Preseason Rank: 9 Key Returnees: Jim Marlatt (19g, 12a), Westy Hopkins (18g, 7a), Conor Doyle (13g, 7a), Ryan Foley (13g, 8a), Matt Miller (30gb, 18ct), John Kemp (6.27 GAA, 63.7%) Key Losses: Sean Rogers (22g, 8a), Max Pfeifer (11g, 9a), Eric Keppeler (7g, 1a), Kevin Randall (20gb, 12ct)
- Which Notre Dame offense will show up more often? The efficient, balanced one? Or the one that shot 25 percent? The Fighting Irish offense peaked in the early rounds of the NCAA tournament, scoring an average of 12.5 goals and shooting 43.1 percent against Yale and Virginia. But they shot 5-for-28 against Loyola in the semifinals, reverting to old form in the biggest game of the season. The Irish were shooting 25.3 percent entering the postseason, which ranked among the last-10 in Division I men’s lacrosse. And in the last four postseason elimination games, the Irish have scored 18 combined goals. Notre Dame’s depth and willingness to run three midfield lines helped later in the year, and it returns four of their six 20-point scorers. They need to avoid settling for early looks, and cycle for the best look.
- Who will be the go-to scorer without Sean Rogers? “Mr. Big Shot” didn’t post gaudy numbers, scoring a team-leading 22 goals, but the lefty scored three straight game-winners early in the year, and put away the decisive goal in three others. Rogers seemingly always made the right decision with the ball in his stick, and he was the offensive captain on the field. When Rogers got good looks at the cage, it meant the collective group was clicking. Rising sophomore Conor Doyle and rising junior Westy Hopkins should be the focal point of the attack, while Jim Marlatt gets more runs with the midfield.
- Can the Notre Dame defense keep it up? There’s almost certainly no end in sight, and defensive coordinator Gerry Byrne directs the most dominant and consistent unit in the country. First-team All-American defenseman Kevin Randall and underrated long-stick midfielder Bobby Smith graduate, but the other component parts return to the nation’s top-ranked unit, including first-team All-American goalie John Kemp. At some point, will an offense figure out how to dissect Notre Dame’s defense? There’s not really a blueprint: The Irish have surrendered double-digit goals only eight times in the last five seasons — four of which came in 2010 against a banged-up group. But Big East teams and fixtures on Notre Dame’s schedule are diligently working to devise a scheme to break down the vaunted unit.