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ND Women’s Lacrosse: Irish bounce back vs. UConn

Meaghan Veselik | Monday, April 20, 2009

After losing their last two contests, the No. 9 Irish came back with a victory in their final regular-season game as they took down Connecticut 20-5 and senior co-captain Jillian Byers set a single-game record with 12 points.

“It took us a little while to figure out how to beat them,” Irish coach Tracy Coyne said. “But once we did we really controlled the ball in the second half.”

Notre Dame (12-4, 5-2 Big East) returned home Saturday after a string of four road games to close out the season and honor the team’s four seniors – Byers, co-captain and defender Shannon Burke, goalkeeper Erin Goodman, and midfielder Beth Koulup. The victory over Connecticut (3-13, 2-5) closes out conference play until the Big East tournament starts Friday.

The Irish offense had been struggling to find the net in their last two games at Syracuse and Vanderbilt, but did not have any trouble Saturday. Notre Dame outshot Connecticut 43-17 and had scored 14 goals by the time the Huskies netted their first. Leading the Irish offense alongside Byers were junior attack Gina Scioscia with two goals and three assists, sophomore midfielder Kaitlin Keena with three goals and an assist and freshman attack Maggie Tamasitis with three goals.

Notre Dame’s defense showed its strength as well Saturday, shutting Connecticut out 10-0 in the first half.

“We were obviously pleased with the first half,” Irish head coach Tracy Coyne said. “It’s difficult to shut somebody out, and to have that type of defensive performance is exciting.”

Anchoring the Irish defense was Goodman, playing more than 46 minutes and making six saves while letting only two shots get past her, the first rolling across the goal line after she stopped it.

“Erin had a great first half,” Coyne said. “And a solid 40 minutes.”

The Huskies’ offense was fronted by senior midfielder Katy Ryan with two goals, followed by single goals from three other players.

Notre Dame got the game off to quick start, jumping out to a 10-0 lead at the break.

“Connecticut rarely got the ball down on our defensive end,” Coyne said. “I think that really speaks to the tenacity of our midfield and defense.”

Byers and Scioscia opened the second half in the same fashion of the first before Keena came down the field to put in two back-to-back goals off of a free position shot and an assist from Byers. The Huskies got their first goal at 22:09 in the second half from Crerar to put the game at 14-1.

The Irish defense has been key for the team this season with many players contributing in different games throughout the season. The team had 26 ground balls to Connecticut’s 14, 17 draw controls and 10 caused turnovers.

“We’ve been pushing to dominate defensively, and seeing so many defenders contribute at so many different times really shows what we’ve been working on,” Coyne said.

A highlight of the game was Byers breaking another school record with her seven goals and five assists. Previously held by her former teammate Cristy Foote (’06), Byers’ 12 points beat the former record by one point.

“Cristy was inspirational for Jill,” Coyne said. “No matter who you play, you have to be on your game to set a record like this. I’m really happy with the balance Jill had of seven goals and five assists.”

Byers wasn’t the only senior to have made an impact on the Irish team over the last four seasons. The team’s four seniors have the best four-year success the program has seen with a record of 50-21.

Up next for the Irish is the Big East tournament this weekend at Georgetown.

“Our focus is on our defense transition and stopping our opponent before they get into scoring position,” Coyne said. “Most important though is to go in with confidence in our game plan and to play a solid 60 minutes.”

Notre Dame will take on Syracuse in the first round Friday at 5:30 p.m. at Georgetown’s Multi-Sport Facility.