May 16, 2010

By Jon Marks
Special to NCAA.com

PRINCETON, N.J. - There was no reason to suspect David Earl was in line for the game of his life on Sunday.

A solid, yet unspectacular player who'd never scored more than three goals in a game - something he'd done on only two occasions - Earl figured to be just one of many who'd have to come up big if Notre Dame was going to knock off favored Princeton in the opening round of the NCAA Division I men's lacrosse tourney.

But FIVE goals? Where'd that come from?

"David Earl's been our best player all year," said longtime Irish coach Kevin Corrigan after Notre Dame broke open a close game late for an 8-5 victory.

"I've said that all along, which is nothing against anybody else, (but) David does so many things for us. He can handle the long ball, or ground balls. I'm just happy the goals came his way."

The son of a former center for the New England Whalers of the old World Hockey Association, Earl took his success in stride and was far more satisfied with his team's performance.

"I got bumped up to the first line," said Earl, who did most of his damage in the second half with three goals when Notre Dame outscored the Ivy League champs, 5-1.

"I got after it and was able to capitalize.

"We had a good game plan from the start. We were able to get our defense going first, then our offense."

With goalie Scott Rodgers putting up a wall in front of the net, chances were few and far between for the Tigers. Other than a late first half lapse when Princeton scored three times in a 1:54 span to take the lead, Notre Dame's defense did the job.

When it came time for the offense to take over, it was Earl over for Princeton.

"We knew six-on-six we liked our (chances) against anybody," said Earl, who came into the game with 15 goals, fourth best on the team. "We were able to hurt them in transition."

Princeton goalie Tyler Fiorito was the chief victim.

"He was just dodging our guys," Fiorito said. "He was able to get good position, worked hard and hustled up and down the field. The credit goes to him." And the rest of the Fighting Irish also get a share as they made sure Earl's big day didn't go to waste."

Next up for for the Irish is Maryland, which beat Hofstra 11-8 in Saturday's first round. Notre Dame's Corrigan watched that game from a unique vantage point.

"I saw them from 'Ruby Tuesdays' near here," said Corrigan, whose club fell to the Terps 7-3 last year in a first round game in South Bend. "I'll give them a plug, because we sat there for two hours drinking ice tea and ordering nothing.

"They're a team that plays 30 guys. They come at you in waves and control the tempo well."

While Notre Dame's Corrigan made it a point not to denigrate Princeton first-year coach Chris Bates, he said that having been around the NCAA tournament block a few times in his 22 years on campus-unlike Bates-has helped.

"I've been doing this 30 years, but I learn something every year," said Corrigan, who arrived at South Bend the same year Lou Holtz led the Irish football team to a national title. "If you don't learn something then you're not paying attention.

"But I think Chris Bates is a terrific coach and hopefully he'll things going here."

Bates took over from six-time national champion Bill Tierney, who moved on to the University of Denver after a 22-year run.