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ND Women’s Lacrosse: Tough shoes for team to fill

Meaghan Veselik | Tuesday, February 10, 2009

No. 11 Notre Dame is ready to take another shot at the national title this spring as it takes on Duquesne in Pittsburgh Saturday.

The Irish had a history-making 2008 season with a record of 12-7, 4-1 in the Big East. They finished second in the Big East as they fell 15-14 in triple overtime to the Georgetown Hoyas. Notre Dame came back and advanced to the NCAA Tournament for the fourth time in the program’s history, but its season was cut short by a 15-7 loss to defending champion Northwestern in the opening round, putting them at No. 12 overall.

Leading the Irish this season is senior attack Jillian Byers, who enters the 2009 season first all-time in goals (179), third in points (225) and seventh in assists (46) at Notre Dame. However, Byers isn’t new to the position of team leader. She is the first Irish player to ever score 50 or more goals in a season three times and also have 66 or more points in a season in three consecutive years.

She had the most goals (67) and points (81) on the Irish squad at the end of the 2008 season, ranking her No. 14 for points and tied for seventh in goals in the nation. Byers also holds the school record for 52 draw controls and was a unanimous selection for the third year in a row on the preseason all-Big East team. The senior has also been a selection on the all-IWLCA second team and a unanimous selection on the first team all-Big East each of her past three seasons.

Joining Byers as a unanimous selection on the preseason all-Big East team is sophomore midfielder Shaylyn Blaney who completed her freshman season fourth on the team in scoring with 43 goals and had 52 points and nine assists. Blaney had the second-most goals and points for a Notre Dame freshman, falling to Byers’ 54 and 78 in 2006.

She was chosen as a first team IWLCA all-West/Midwest Regional selection and took second team all-Big East honors last season. She was selected to the Big East all-tournament team after scoring a career-high five goals in the loss to Georgetown for the championship.

The Irish have a third preseason all-Big East selection, senior defender Shannon Burke. Burke wrapped up her junior season as a selection on the second team IWLCA all-West/Midwest regional team, and a Big East defensive player of the week, finishing fourth in the conference with 1.56 caused turnovers per game.

She contributed offensively and defensively for the Irish with career highs in goals (8), assists (3) and points (11) offensively, while going second on the team for ground balls (33), second in draw controls (51) and led the team in caused turnovers (32) defensively.

Notre Dame faces tough competition from the start, playing four-time defending champion No. 1 Northwestern in their home opener on Feb. 20, and adding Louisville and Cincinnati to its Big East schedule.