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Irish hope to regain their form

Matt Mooney | Friday, April 23, 2004

As Notre Dame prepares to resume play this weekend following consecutive losses, the Irish (10-2) are looking back in order to move forward.

“We’re playing with nothing to lose, like we did at the beginning of our season up until Northwestern,” captain Meredith Simon said.

Notre Dame will have two chances this weekend to resume its old style of play, tonight with a 7 p.m. game at Moose Kraus Stadium against No. 9 Johns Hopkins and then a second game in Piscataway, N.J. for a Sunday afternoon game against Rutgers.

Though the two recent losses have come at the hands of ranked opponents (No. 5 Georgetown and No. 11 Northwestern), Irish coach Tracy Coyne feels the Irish need only look within themselves to find the winning formula.

“I want the focus to be on our own play, our own preparation, what we feel we need to execute in order to win,” she said. “I don’t want to focus on anything about our opponent because when we are at our best, I don’t care who it is on the field we should be able to win.”

But winning is something the Irish have had trouble with in the past week. They played a very competitive game with Georgetown but lost 9-7, only to fall apart in their very next game to Northwestern. The Irish could only manage three goals up until the final minute of the game to finish 9-5.

“We just weren’t there that day. We just didn’t show up to play, they did and we didn’t,” Simon said.

One of the elements Coyne felt was missing from the Northwestern game was the team cohesion that had typified the Irish style of play, a balanced offense and a swarming team defense.

“We got where we were because we were so unified as a team and they were very unselfish,” Coyne said. “It wasn’t like someone was hogging the ball or anyone was complaining. It was more the opposite, they would try to take on everything themselves instead of sharing the burden.”

Coyne however, did see signs of the team that started 10-0 during Wednesday’s practice. “Obviously you just don’t immediately put a disappointing loss like [that] behind you,” Coyne said. “[But] by the end of practice we were all ready to move forward and regain our form that had got us to a high level.”

But the Irish will be challenged if they hope to stay at that high level. Notre Dame has a backloaded schedule in which three of their last four opponents have top 15 rankings. After hosting No. 9 Johns Hopkins this weekend, No. 10 Vanderbilt and No. 13 Syracuse arrive in South Bend each of the next two Saturdays for season ending showdowns. Simon understands that her team can use the lessons from the losses to help their performance in those games as they move toward the NCAA tournament.

“Now that we’ve had our hole in the road, I think we’ll be able to handle anything now,” she said.

Above all, Coyne wants her team to have the confidence of knowing they are now a force to be reckoned with in the world of college lacrosse.

“I think we need to embrace our success more instead of trying to fight it and being afraid and thinking there [are] these lofty expectations. They didn’t achieve what they achieved by a fluke,” she said.