Matt Landis leads Irish D to Final Four shot

If Notre Dame knocks off North Carolina on Sunday to make a third straight Final Four, Matt Landis will be a major reason why. Just don’t expect to hear that from the two-time ACC Defensive Player of the Year.

Who: No. 3 Notre Dame (11-3) vs. North Carolina (9-6)
When: Noon, Sunday, May 22
Where: Ohio Stadium, Columbus, Ohio
Twitter: @NDlacrosse

It’s called the Beep Test and it's a hell of a way for Kevin Corrigan to welcome Notre Dame lacrosse back to campus in the fall.

It's a conditioning exam where players line up and jog about 20 yards to the tune of a few beeps to keep the pace. Then the beeps come faster and faster. Then that jog turns into a run. Then that run devolves into an ugly sprint to exhaustion.

Players can't beat the test. It just seems like Matt Landis usually does.

“He comes out after working an arduous internship in New York City and maybe he’s not in the best shape,” said former Notre Dame All-American defenseman Stephen O’Hara. “Then push comes to shove, he wins the test. I’m pretty sure he’s won the past three or four years.”

Now the indefatigable Landis will lead Notre Dame into the NCAA quarterfinals against North Carolina on Sunday afternoon in Columbus, Ohio. A win at The Horseshoe puts Notre Dame into its third straight Final Four and fifth in the past seven seasons. The Irish also have a chance to avenge their late season collapse to the Tar Heels after blowing a five-goal lead in the fourth quarter that denied Notre Dame an outright ACC title.

If any of that happens Sunday, the two-time ACC Defensive Player of the Year and finalist for the Tewaaraton Award – the Heisman Trophy of college lacrosse – will be a major reason why.

Just don’t expect the senior Landis to tell you about it.

The product of Pelham, N.Y., didn’t seriously start playing lacrosse until high school, picking up a stick at Pelham Memorial instead of one of the state’s more fashionable programs. Despite all that inexperience, Landis still worked with the varsity as a freshman By the time he finished there Landis was good enough that head coach Michael Solazzo had to basically retire his jersey because nobody wanted to repurpose No. 43.

“They know they don’t hold a candle to him,” Solazzo said. “I can’t tell you how well-rounded he is.”

Landis arrived at Notre Dame four years ago with a recruiting profile but wasn’t a surefire star. He was a Top 100 prospect out of Pelham, but that's a long way from being the best defenseman in college lacrosse.

“We thought when we saw him as a freshman that he had a chance to be really, really good,” Corrigan said. “But I would never say you look at a guy and say, ‘Yeah, that’s going to be a two-time player of the year.’”

After playing long stick midfield as a freshman, Landis moved to defense as a sophomore. He’s started 46-of-47 games since. He leads Irish in caused turnovers (18) and paces defensemen in groundballs (31).

Yet for the reserved Landis, who will return to New York after the season for a job in investment banking after graduating from the Mendoza College of Business last weekend, the credit for his rise goes to former teammates like O’Hara and coaches like Corrigan and assistant Gerry Byrne, who was key in getting him to South Bend in the first place.

The fact Landis was all-state in three sports in high school – football, hockey and lacrosse – helped set the table for his success. The same goes for growing up in a family with a military background. And there's that otherworldly conditioning that helped him thrive from the moment he showed at Notre Dame. Surely most of the credit for the career of Matt Landis goes to Matt Landis. He’s just not willing to take it.

“I think a lot of it comes from buying into the system,” he said. “Not always looking to make the great play, but always looking to make the right play. I think if you consistently do that, if you consistently look at making good plays then I think you have a chance at being great.”

That’s exactly what Landis has become.

And with three more wins, starting Sunday against North Carolina, Landis could also become something more.

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