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Women’s Lacrosse: ND to face G’Town in stadium

Matt Gamber | Friday, April 25, 2008

The No. 10 Irish will become Notre Dame’s first women’s varsity team to compete in Notre Dame Stadium when they take on No. 7 Georgetown in the semifinals of the Big East tournament at 7:45 tonight.

“It’s a tremendous honor for us to have the opportunity to play in Notre Dame Stadium,” Irish coach Tracy Coyne said. “It’s amazing. I think the players definitely appreciate and understand what it means to have this opportunity to compete in the stadium.”

Notre Dame (11-5, 4-1 Big East) enters the four-team conference tournament as the No. 2 seed. After losing their Big East opener to top-seeded Syracuse (13-2, 5-0 Big East), the Irish won their remaining four conference games, including a 10-8 win at Georgetown (10-5, 3-2 Big East) on April 12.

“It’s a huge conference rivalry, so I’m expecting it to be a tough game,” Coyne said. “We think we match up really well. Over the last few years, it’s been one of those back-and-forth type series, so the fact that we jumped out to a little bit of a lead on them in the first half was surprising. I’m thinking it’s going to be a one or two goal game.”

Freshman Shaylyn Blaney led the Irish attack in their first meeting with the Hoyas, scoring three goals while junior Jillian Byers, the program’s all-time leading scorer, was held to one. Junior goalie Erin Goodman made 15 saves in the game to secure the win.

Byers (61 goals), Blaney (35 goals) and senior captain Caitlin McKinney (35 goals, 21 assists) will look to jump on Georgetown early again, while sophomore Gina Scioscia (15 goals, 29 assists) will serve as the offense’s main distributor.

The Irish have won six of their last eight dating back to the home loss to Syracuse, and one of those losses came at No. 1 Northwestern on April 9. Ever since losing two of three over spring break in California, Coyne said her team has played much better and consistent lacrosse.

“We had our ups and downs on the California swing, but those games have really helped prepare us for this opportunity,” she said. “If we don’t know what we’re about and we don’t know what it takes to win, we’re not going to do it. We’ve played enough games to where we know our team and we know our strengths.”

Though Coyne said wins against Georgetown tonight and Cornell on May 3 might get the Irish an at-large berth into the NCAA Tournament, she expects her team to be solely focused on accomplishing a goal it set at the beginning of the year.

“Our best chance of controlling our own destiny is to win the Big East; that way everything is taken care of,” she said. “We want to win. It’s not about finishing second. That’s what we want, and I think we’re going to do it.”

Notre Dame’s game is scheduled to begin 45 minutes after the conclusion of the first semifinal between Syracuse and Rutgers (7-9, 2-3 Big East), which is set to start at 5:30 p.m. The winners will meet for the Big East championship in the stadium at noon on Sunday.