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Team falls just short of wins

Matt Mooney | Monday, April 26, 2004

So close, and yet so far away.

Such was the case for the No. 6 Irish this weekend as their losing ways continued following a pair of tough one-goal losses – a 13-12 defeat against No. 9 Johns Hopkins (12-3) Friday and then a 7-6 loss to Rutgers (7-7, 3-3 in the Big East) Sunday.

Notre Dame (10-4, 3-2) now finds itself searching for an explanation having now lost four consecutive games after starting the season with a perfect 10-0.

“I just do not have the answer,” coach Tracy Coyne said. “If I had the answer we wouldn’t have lost the game today.”

Though both losses were very close, the Irish played much better against Johns Hopkins on Friday. The game was perhaps the most competitive Notre Dame has played all season. Captain Meredith Simon exploded in the first half for three goals and three assists to carry the team to a 7-6 halftime lead after a back and forth first half.

But Johns Hopkins burst out of the gate in the second half, tallying the first four goals to take a 10-7 lead after only 5:28 had elapsed. After Coyne called a timeout to regroup, the Irish responded immediately scoring not less than a minute later.

And after a quick Johns Hopkins goal, the Irish put together a streak of their own. They scored four of the next five goals, tying the game at 12 when Mary McGrath slipped the ball past Blue Jay goalie Lauren Riddick on a wraparound play for her third score of the game.

It looked like the Irish might have finally turned the corner in the game, maintaining a sustained attack with a chance to take the lead when Simon was awarded free position. But her ensuing shot was blocked and the Blue Jays regained possession and scored the go-ahead goal with only 3:24 to play.

Working against the clock, the Irish retook possession with 40 seconds remaining. They moved the ball downfield and had a shot to tie, but the smothering defense of Johns Hopkins knocked the ball loose. The Blue Jays took the ball and ran down the clock.

Simon led the way for the Irish on Friday, scoring all six of her points in the first half. She had a hand in six of the seven first-half goals for Notre Dame. Simon’s first goal, in which she completely faked Riddick out of the net, also marked the 100th goal of her career. Only two other players in school history have ever reached the century mark.

But none of the Irish goals came easily. The Blue Jays employed a physical, aggressive defense which caused the Irish a great deal of difficulty setting up their attack.

Additionally, the Johns Hopkins offense was the most potent Notre Dame had seen. The 13 Blue Jay goals are the most scored against the Irish in a game all season.

The Rutgers game ended in just the opposite fashion to Friday’s contest. The Irish had staked themselves to a 6-5 lead with just over one minute to play behind pair of goals from Abby Owen and Lauren Fischer. But the Scarlet Knights scored on a free possession goal from Jamie Farewell with 1:09 to play.

After recovering an Irish turnover following the ensuing face-off, Rutgers came down on the attack and scored again with only 20 seconds remaining. Notre Dame could not muster a shot as the clock ticked.

A failure to capitalize on those chances ultimately doomed the Irish, who managed only one second-half goal, very similar to the low output in an earlier loss to Northwestern.

“Ultimately it’s my responsibility to figure out what the problem is and to come up with a solution that gets the team back on track,” Coyne said. “I just have to get some perspective.”