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ND Women’s Lacrosse: Spring break not friendly to Irish

Matt Puglisi | Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Last spring break, Notre Dame (1-4) had arguably its best week in program history, rattling off a trio of victories – including road wins over No. 19 Cornell, No. 2 Duke and No. 6 James Madison – en route to a No. 2 overall ranking.

This year, the Irish had one of their worst.

After an 18-11 home loss March 3 to No. 3 Northwestern dropped the Irish to 1-1 on the year, Notre Dame hit the road for its annual spring break trip down the East coast. Losses to then-unranked Cornell, Vanderbilt and James Madison sent the Irish home empty-handed.

“It certainly was not what we expected by any stretch of the imagination,” Irish coach Tracy Coyne said. “Cornell, Vanderbilt and James Madison are all teams that we beat last year, and I think that always plays into it, and Vanderbilt is a huge rivalry for us. We were very disappointed with the outcomes.”

While a number of factors contributed to the fruitless trip, an injury to starting midfielder Megan Murphy loomed particularly large.

“The results were the same, but each game was different,” Coyne said. “[Murphy] is out with a knee injury, and we don’t know the results yet so having her out of the starting lineup was a difficult adjustment.”

Cornell 11, Notre Dame 8

Finding itself trailing 6-2 at the half, Notre Dame was never able to answer the early Cornell onslaught as the Irish started off the trip on the wrong foot March 6 with an 11-8 defeat at the hands of the host Big Red.

Midfielder Kaki Orr paced the Irish attack, netting a pair of goals on an afternoon that saw Notre Dame muster a meager 16 shots on goal – the Big Red generated 18 in the first half alone.

While the Irish would pull within three goals at 8-5 after tallies by defender Lena Zentgraf and midfielder Caitlin McKinney with just over 22 minutes left to play, the three-goal deficit was as close as the Irish would come to catching Cornell before a pair of goals by midfielder Lindsay Shaffer and attack Jackie Bowers in the game’s closing minutes once again brought the Irish within three at 11-8.

The upset to then-unranked Cornell had more severe consequences than just knocking Notre Dame under the .500 mark at 1-2 – for the first time since April 24, 2001, the Irish found themselves unranked in the most recent Intercollegiate Women’s Lacrosse Coaches’ Association (IWLCA) national rankings.

Vanderbilt 10, Notre Dame 9 (OT)

Although the March 6 loss to the Big Red stripped the Irish of their national ranking, last Wednesday’s loss to Vanderbilt may have been the most painful of the trio.

Squandering a late second-half lead only to fight back and tie the score at 9-9 with just over five minutes left on the clock, the Irish eventually fell in a 10-9 overtime heartbreaker to the Commodores in Nashville, Tenn.

With Notre Dame leading by the slimmest of margins 8-7 and 11 minutes left in the game, Commodore Meg Spies knotted the contest on a free position shot before Ashley Paschall put Vanderbilt in front 9-8 four minutes later.

Refusing to give up, McKinney buried her second goal of the game 90 seconds later to even the score.

The see-saw battle would remain locked at 9-9 until Vanderbilt’s Jennifer Tapscott gave the Commodores a hard-fought win 2:22 into the sudden-death overtime period.

Once again, the Irish found themselves behind early as Vanderbilt poured in five of the game’s first six goals to jump out to a quick 5-1 advantage after 20 minutes of play.

However, unlike the Cornell contest where the Irish were never able to get back in the game, Notre Dame responded.

Midfielder Brittany Fox scored the first of her three goals with just over 10 minutes remaining in the first half to kick a streak that saw the Irish net four of the game’s next five goals to pull within a tally at 6-5 by the halftime.

“The defense against Vanderbilt – once it got settled, I think we played well enough to win,” Coyne said. “But the attack is not doing its job.”

James Madison 10, Notre Dame 5

After topping the host Dukes 9-7 to conclude last season’s head-turning spring break trip, the Irish were unable to replicate the feat this year, falling to No. 16 James Madison 10-5 Sunday afternoon in Harrisonburg, Va. and stretching their losing streak to four games.

For a third consecutive spring break game, the Irish were slow out of the gates, allowing the Dukes to post the contest’s first three goals.

While goals by Orr and Fox brought Notre Dame back within a single tally midway through the first half, James Madison eventually ran away with the contest, netting five consecutive scores, including four before half time to build a 7-2 advantage and effectively put the game out of reach.

The James Madison lead would grow to 10-3 until attack Mary McGrath and Shaffer found the back of the net at the 23:23 and 26:31 marks of the second half, respectively.

“In each game, I think the most common denominator is that we get down early,” Coyne said. “We make a good effort at coming back like we outscored Cornell in the second half and we took the lead against Vanderbilt, but you cant get down by so many and come back against good teams.”

Following the disappointing 0-3 road trip, the Irish have a much-needed nine-day rest before returning to action next Tuesday when California visits for an afternoon tilt on Moose Krause Field.

Contact Matt Puglisi at mpuglisi@nd.edu