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ND Women’s Lacrosse: ND?earns two Big East wins

Eric Prister | Monday, April 6, 2009

The No. 9 Irish rolled through the weekend, earning two Big East conference wins by defeating Cincinnati 16-5 and Louisville 20-8.

The Irish move to 11-2 on the season overall, with a 4-1 Big East record, good enough for sole possession of third place in the conference.

In Friday’s matchup against the Bearcats, the Irish were led by their top scorers, senior Jillian Byers, who scored five times for the Irish, and junior Gina Scioscia, who chipped in two more goals and three assists, and by sophomore Ansley Stewart, whose four goals were good for a career high.

“[Stewart] played very well,” Irish coach Tracy Coyne said. “She was just really in the flow of the game. I think the team was finding her when she was open and she was capitalizing on the defensive looks they were giving her.”

Both teams started slowly, but with the score tied at one, the Irish went on to score the next four goals, and nine out of the next eleven goals scored in the first half. The Irish were paced by Stewart, who contributed three of her four goals before the break.

Notre Dame did not let up in second half, scoring the first five goals, including Stewart’s fourth and Byers’ third and fourth.

The victory over Cincinnati marked the 10th on the season for Notre Dame, which has now won at least that many for the fourth consecutive year, a first in the program’s history.

The Irish then defeated Louisville on Sunday, led once again by the scoring from Byers. She contributed another five goals and two assists in the blowout victory.

“I thought we played well today against Louisville,” Coyne said. “I think we recognize that the conference is competitive and I think the team came out and gave Louisville the respect that they deserve and played a great game. I think that’s a step in the right direction.”

After scoring two quick goals in the first four minutes of the game, the Irish gave up a goal before scoring six more unanswered, giving them an 8-1 lead. Sciocia and Byers combined for five of the first eight goals for Notre Dame.

Notre Dame never looked back, scoring five unanswered goals near the beginning of the second half, and putting the game out of reach.

“[Byers] did something today that was very quintessential,” Coyne said. “She had one really awesome goal, where she was one-on-one with the goalie and made a great fake and just placed her shot. I was happy to see her do that.”

The two victories were boosted by strong defensive performances, and Coyne was specific in pointing out senior Shannon Burke and junior Rachel Guerrera.

“[Burke] played great on Friday,” Coyne said. “And [Guerrera] played awesome. She was kind of on a mission [Sunday].”

Notre Dame returns to action Saturday when they will travel to Syracuse, N.Y. to take on the No. 8 Orange.

“We have three big games in a row, so I think that’s going to be a key test for us,” Coyne said. “We have things that we can look back on, experiences that we’ve had over the season that have prepared us for some of these tough stretches down the road.”