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Laxers go 11-6 against tough competition

Michael Bryan | Friday, May 18, 2007

The Notre Dame women’s lacrosse team fell just short of its lofty goals for the 2007 season, losing in the semifinals of the the Big East tournament and failing to qualify for the NCAA Tournament. The Irish, however, posted an impressive 11-6 record against top competition in another strong year.

“Our goals are to win the first Big East championship and the NCAA Tournament,” Irish coach Tracy Coyne said before the season.

The Irish set out in February to achieve those goals in early tests against three top tier teams – James Madison, Stanford and Northwestern. The laxers showed their mental toughness and ability in the clutch during the first two matches, a 10-9 overtime victory over James Madison and a 12-11 double-overtime win over Stanford.

Notre Dame suffered its first loss of the year against Northwestern, dropping an 18-10 match against the top-ranked and defending NCAA champion Wildcats. A road trip to the northeast quickly cleared all memories of the loss, however, as the Irish pulled out big wins over ranked opponents Yale and Cornell and romped over Canisius 18-8.

After facing five ranked non-conference opponents, the Irish began Big East play prepared for the toughest competition. Notre Dame dropped its first conference matchup against Syracuse, the eventual Big East champion, in a close 16-13 match.

The Irish quickly recovered from the loss, winning their next four games. The highlight of the streak came against Big East rival Loyola, when Erin Goodman and the Irish defense set a team record for least goals allowed in an 11-1 victory.

The Irish continued their homestand with a split against non-conference foes Duke and California.

Notre Dame suffered its worst loss of the season against the No. 3 Blue Devils 20-10, but rebounded just two days later with a 13-9 win over the Golden Bears.

The highlight of the season for the Irish came at home April 14 in a historic 13-8 win over Big East rival Georgetown. The win was the first ever against the Hoyas in Big East play – Georgetown had a 37-game conference win streak covering seven years entering the match.

“It was an awesome win, probably the biggest in the history of our program,” Coyne said.

After the upset win over the Hoyas, the Irish finished the season in disappointing fashion. Notre Dame dropped a close match against No. 12 Vanderbilt on the road, and then finished with another tough loss against Rutgers to end the regular season.

The Irish advanced to the inaugural Big East tournament in Syracuse as the No. 4 seed, and faced a rematch against Georgetown in the semifinals. The Hoyas avenged their earlier loss against the Irish with a 12-10 win, holding off a furious Notre Dame rally to close the game.

Notre Dame’s final record was 11-6, with 12 of its 17 matches against ranked opponents. All six losses on the season came against ranked teams, and the Irish also tallied six wins over ranked teams.

Sophomore Jillian Byers and junior Caitlin McKinney led the Irish offensively all season, and were named unanimous selections to the All-Big East first team. Byers tallied 58 goals and eight assists on the year, and McKinney netted 44 goals and 21 assists.

Defensively the team was led by seniors Kristin Hopson and Meaghan Fitzpatrick, another first team All-Big East selection. After her first season as starting goalkeeper, sophomore Erin Goodman should leave the Irish in good hands for next season.

A trio of seniors also held the Irish together with their leadership and contributions on the field. Meghan Murphy battled injuries to score 18 goals and 17 assists, and Lena Zentgraf was third on the team in scoring with 39 points. Kaki Orr also was among the team’s leaders in scoring and set an Irish record for draw controls in her final year.

“We want to win and show we belong with many of the other Notre Dame teams with histories of Big East titles and championships,” Coyne said. “We want to make a history of our own.”

While the Notre Dame women’s lacrosse team fell just short of its lofty goals for the 2007 season, the Irish posted an impressive 11-6 record against top competition in another strong year.

“Our goals are to win the first Big East championship and the NCAA Tournament,” Irish coach Tracy Coyne said before the season.

The Irish set out in February with these goals for the season in mind in early tests against three top tier teams – James Madison, Stanford, and Northwestern. The laxers showed their mental toughness and ability in the clutch during the first two matches, a 10-9 overtime victory over James Madison and a 12-11 double-overtime win over Stanford.

Notre Dame suffered its first loss of the year against Northwestern, dropping an 18-10 match against the top-ranked and defending NCAA champion Wildcats. A road trip to the northeast quickly cleared all memories of the loss, however, as the Irish pulled out big wins over ranked opponents Yale and Cornell and romped over Canisius 18-8.

After facing five ranked non-conference opponents, the Irish began Big East play prepared for the toughest competition. Notre Dame dropped its first conference matchup against Syracuse, the eventual Big East champion, in a close 16-13 match.

The Irish quickly recovered from the loss, winning its next four games. The highlight of the streak came against Big East rival Loyola, where Erin Goodman and the Irish defense set a team record for least goals allowed in an 11-1 victory.

The Irish continued their homestand with a split against non-conference foes Duke and California.

Notre Dame suffered its worst loss of the season against the No. 3 Blue Devils 20-10, but rebounded just two days later with a 13-9 win over the Golden Bears.

The highlight of the season for the Irish came at home April 14 in a historic 13-8 win over Big East rival Georgetown. The win was the first ever against the Hoyas in Big East play – Georgetown had a 37-game conference win streak covering seven years entering the match.

“It was an awesome win, probably the biggest in the history of our program,” Coyne said.

After the huge win over the Hoyas, however, the Irish finished the season in disappointing fashion. Notre Dame dropped a very close match against No. 12 Vanderbilt on the road, and then finished with another heartbreaking loss against Rutgers to end the regular season.

The Irish advanced to the inaugural Big East tournament in Syracuse as the No. 4 seed, and faced a rematch against Georgetown in the semifinals. The Hoyas avenged their earlier loss against the Irish with a 12-10 win, holding off a furious Notre Dame rally to close the game.

Notre Dame’s final record was 11-6, with 12 of its 17 matches against ranked opponents. All six losses on the season came against ranked teams, and the Irish also tallied six wins over ranked teams.

Sophomore Jillian Byers and junior Caitlin McKinney led the Irish offensively all season, and were named unanimous selection to the All-Big East first team. Byers tallied 58 goals and 8 assists on the year, and McKinney netted 44 goals and 21 assists.

Defensively the team was led by seniors Kristin Hopson and Meaghan Fitzpatrick, another first team All-Big East selection. In her first season as starting goalkeeper, sophomore Erin Goodman should leave the Irish in good hands for next season.

A trio of seniors also held the Irish together with their leadership and contributions on the field. Megan Murphy battled injuries to score 18 goals and 17 assists, and Lena Zentgraf was third on the team in scoring with 39 points. Kaki Orr also was among the team’s leaders in scoring and set an Irish record for draw controls in her final year.

“We want to show win and show we belong with many of the other Notre Dame teams with histories of Big East titles and championships,” Coyne said. “We want to make a history of our own.”

Although the Irish came away without a championship this season, the team has already emerged as a top program that should contend for the Big East and NCAA titles for years to come.