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ND Women’s Lacrosse: Irish travel to Cincy, Louisville

Eric Prister | Friday, April 3, 2009

The Irish (9-2, 2-1 Big East) gear up to take on two conference opponents this weekend, as they will face Cincinnati (5-5, 0-2) on the road Friday and then travel to Kentucky to take on Louisville (6-3, 0-2) Sunday.

After a seven-game win streak and an 8-1 start to the season, Notre Dame split last weekend, losing to No. 6 Georgetown 14-12 and then going on to defeat No. 13 Loyola (Md.) 16-13. The 1-1 weekend pushed Notre Dame to a third-place tie in the Big East.

“We had a two-goal loss to a top-10 team, so I think we’re definitely in the mix, but I think this weekend we need to come out and play strong,” Irish coach Tracy Coyne said. “We’ll see how it goes this weekend to see if we can kind of crank it up a notch.”

The Irish have been in the position before, starting the 2008 season 9-3 and the 2007 season 11-3, but were not able to achieve their goal of winning the Big East.

“If you look back at 2007 and 2008 we’ve been at this point before where we’ve been 9-2 or 10-3,” Coyne said. “I think our focus is how do we finish in a stronger position than we did last year or two years ago.”

The Bearcats are led by their goalie, freshman Katherine Russo, who leads the Big East in save percentage.

Notre Dame is near the top of every offensive category in the Big East, which Coyne attributes to the team’s balance.

“We have pretty balanced scoring. At different points in the season we’ve had younger players step up and have a key goal so I think it’s everyone who’s contributing,” Coyne said.

The Irish are led offensively by sophomore Jillian Byers and junior Gina Scioscia, who are second and third in points per game in Big East play so far this year.

Byers leads the Irish with 40 goals and has also contributed nine assists throughout the season. Her 11 goals in the Big East are good for second in the conference.

“[Byers] always draws the top defender from the other team, and she’s handling that pressure well,” Coyne said.

Scioscia, who has already been named Big East player of the week once this season, leads the team in points with 54 and assists with 21. Her 11 goals and 7 assists in Big East play is good enough for second in both of those categories. She is also second in total points.

“[Scioscia] is having an outstanding season and I think [she’s] stepped up and I’m hoping that she’ll continue on her current path,” Coyne said.

The Irish will meet the Bearcats Friday at 4 p.m. in Cincinnati and will take on the Cardinals at 1 p.m. Sunday.