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Women’s Lacrosse: ND clinches spot in conference tournament

Cory Bernard | Monday, May 2, 2011

One week removed from a big victory in their last home game, the Irish again enjoyed senior day success. This time, the win came at the expense of Louisville’s upperclassmen.

Notre Dame (9-8, 6-2 Big East) clinched the final spot in the Big East tournament with a thrilling 16-15 defeat of the Cardinals (10-7, 3-5) Friday. The Irish then completed their regular season with a 17-6 conquest of overmatched Cincinnati (2-14, 0-8) Sunday.

Coming into Friday’s contest, Notre Dame was 1-4 in games decided by two goals or less, including two overtime losses. Thanks to sophomore midfielder Jenny Granger’s goal with 0.8 seconds left off a pass from junior attack Maggie Tamasitis, the Irish got over the hump and earned their first winning streak of the season.

Irish coach Tracy Coyne said her team finally had the ball bounce their way after a season of agonizing defeats.

“We’ve had so many close games this year,” Coyne said. “Besides just talent, sometimes you need a little luck. We’ve fought hard this year and I think we finally got that break we’ve been looking for.”

After senior midfielder Kailene Abt picked up a loose ball in the final seconds and fired a shot that went just wide of goal, Tamasitis beat the defense to the end line and gained one final chance for the Irish. The junior then found Granger all alone on the goalie’s weak side for the game winner.

Coyne said she never intended to run out the clock after having possession for the final 4:32 of the game.

“We were playing to win,” she said. “We ran a play at the end in order to do that. I told the team after the game even though our execution wasn’t there on that play, we had people hustling and getting after the ball, and it worked in our favor. I was really happy with the effort.”

With a berth in the conference tournament already in hand, Notre Dame traveled to Cincinnati Sunday. The Irish gained a 10-goal advantage in the first half and cruised to their third straight victory. NCAA rules require a running game clock if one team leads by 10 or more goals. Though the Irish were heavily favored to beat the Bearcats, Coyne said her team still played with focus.

“I feel great about the win — we got a running clock in the first half and everyone was able to play,” Coyne said. “We went with a completely different lineup, and I thought after they scored the first goal we never looked back. Overall, we played crisp and sharp.”

The Irish head into the Big East tournament with confidence after their late-season streak. Coyne said her team has remained a tight group throughout this season’s struggles.

“They stayed positive and they haven’t turned on each other,” she said of her players. “They show up for practice every day with the right attitude and we’re starting to surge and build momentum.”

Notre Dame will face Georgetown (9-7, 7-1) for the second time this season Thursday night. The game will be played in Washington D.C., a place Coyne said her team feels comfortable.

“Georgetown is our home away from home — we always play well there,” she said. “We’re excited.”