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ND Women’s Lacrosse: Notre Dame records three wins over break

Nathaniel Lee | Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The 9th ranked Notre Dame Women’s Lacrosse team turned in an impressive string of victories during Spring Break, beating No. 13 Dartmouth and No. 15 James Madison as well as Hofstra to improve to 6-1 on the season.

Senior attack standout Jillian Byers, who recently set Notre Dame’s all-time scoring record, notched her 200th career goal while leading the team through the games. Adding to her accolades was Byers’ selection as Big East Offensive Player of the Week.

“The spring break teams mean a lot for our national picture, they are all good teams,” Irish coach Tracy Coyne said. “Treating it like a business trip and staying focused is the key to winning.”

Starting off the break was a trip to New Hampshire to face Dartmouth. The Irish got off to a slow start, allowing the Big Green to score the first six goals of the contest, and failing to record a shot until 17:34 left in the first half. The Irish turned up the pressure, though, forcing turnovers in the mid-field, and sophomore Ansley Stewart notched the first goal of the contest for Notre Dame with 10:37 left in the first half. As the opening stanza wound down, the Irish continued to turn up the intensity, and cut the Dartmouth lead to 8-5 by halftime.

After the break, Notre Dame came out with guns blazing in the second, and tallied eight unanswered goals to snag a 13-8 lead with 14:04 to go. Dartmouth never recovered and Notre Dame took the contest 16-11. Pacing the Irish was Byers’ three goals two assists and Junior Gina Scioscia’s three goals one assist. Stewart, along with fellow sophomores Kailene Abt’s and Kaitlin Keena’s had two goals apiece. Senior Erin Goodman picked up the win in net for the Irish.

“I have been watching Jillian for four years now, and she is a great athlete,” Coyne said of Byers. “She reads the play so well.”

Next, the squad met James Madison as they travelled to sunny Orlando, Fla. The Dukes jumped out early, holding a lead of 6-3 halfway through the first. The team traded goals before Abt notched two in a row, tying the contest. As the clock wound down in the first half, James Madison scored again twice to take a 9-7 lead into halftime. Once again the Irish came out of the break aggressively, going on a four-goal run with scores from Scioscia, Byers, Blaney and sophomore Jackie Doherty.

Up on the Dukes 11-10 with 19:52 left in the Game, Notre Dame built on its lead and took the contest 16-12, with Goodman earning another solid win in goal.

The Irish came home to round out the break, hosting Hofstra at the Loftus Sports Center last Saturday. The Pride got on the board first, but Notre Dame had quick answers from Blaney and Byers. The teams traded goals, until the Irish scored three unanswered to take a 9-5 lead with 10:26 left in the half. Hofstra surged in the final minutes, but Blaney scored again in the final seconds to take a 10-8 lead into the break.

Notre Dame opened the second with a 4-1 run, but Hofstra answered again to cut the lead to two goals. The Irish held on and took the high-scoring contest 17-15 for their 5th straight win. Goodman tallied seven saves for another win between the pipes. Byers led the Irish with six goals and one assist, and Scioscia notched four goals and two assists.

Coyne said that the offensive outburst was a result of hard defensive work to take the ball away from opponents.

“Turnovers are what we have been working on in practice,” Coyne said. “Our game plan is in part forcing opponents to lose possession and capitalizing on those opportunities by staying focused.”

The Irish will look to continue their winning ways as they host Rutgers tonight at the Loftus Sports Center at 7:00 pm. The Scarlet Knights (3-3) will be the first Big East opponent for the Irish, and are coming off a 24-1 thrashing at the ends of No. 1 powerhouse Northwestern.