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Women’s Lacrosse: Halfpenny earns first victory

Jack Hefferon | Sunday, February 19, 2012

No. 20 Notre Dame and its new coach, Christine Halfpenny, did not assemble this year’s schedule without early-season challenges. In opening their season with No. 6 Stanford, the Irish blazed out of the gates, earning a 17-14 victory on a record-setting day at Arlotta Stadium.

From the opening draw, Notre Dame (1-0) appeared poised and played an extremely efficient game, especially on the offensive side of the field. The squad scored seven goals on its first seven shots, and opened up a 7-2 lead on Stanford (0-3) early in the first half.

The Irish continued to pour it on before the break, and senior attacker Maggie Tamasitis set up three goals as the clock dwindled to send her team to the locker room with a 12-7 lead. The late burst gave Tamasitis five first-half assists, breaking her own single-half record of four from last season.

For Halfpenny, it was satisfying to see her newly-implemented motion offense work so effectively early on.

“We knew we were going to see a different look in Stanford, who runs a different style than we’re used to,” Halfpenny said. “I was very proud of our girls because they just stayed very composed, and took advantage of their opportunities, and they worked for them. Of those [first seven goals], so many of them had helpers, and I think that’s a sign of a team playing as a team, and we practice that. That’s what you want to see on gameday.”

The Cardinal made some key adjustments in their gameplan, and the seemingly unstoppable Irish offense was held in check in the second half. Stanford was able to cut off Tamasitis and control the motion offense, which allowed them to take control of possession. Stanford was able to work for shots and chip away at the Irish lead, and soon the Notre Dame lead stood at just three.

“Stanford is an awesome opponent,” Halfpenny said. “They make you work for your opportunities, and as we all saw in the second half they make great adjustments, as well.”

As the offense began to slow down, the Irish defense, led by junior goaltender Ellie Hilling, picked up the slack. Showing the aggressive style that Halfpenny has attempted to instill, the defense forced the Cardinal to use more time than they had to work for every goal.

“Our ride was outstanding today, and when the goals weren’t falling we were able to get the ball back, which is huge,” Halfpenny said. “When Stanford was pushing down the stretch to put this game into overtime, our defense held them for a three-minute stand. Maybe it resulted in a goal, maybe off an eight-meter [shot], but we held them for three minutes, and I think we’ll be able to learn off that.”

Down the stretch, it was fitting that the ride would put the game away for Notre Dame. As Stanford tried to clear with less than three minutes to play, Tamasitis forced a turnover and fed sophomore attacker Lindsay Powell for a breakaway goal. Powell, who had never scored prior to Sunday’s game, finished with a game-high five goals. That type of development is something Halfpenny said she hopes to see often.

“We’re playing a lot of youth on the field and we’re going to be developing during every game,” she said. “Some of it’s going to be on-field development. In the middle of the game we had a freshman learning about the slide package, and that’s just going to be a growing pain that we have this year. But their effort and their hunger out there is something that I’m really excited about.”

Now, the Irish will set about conquering the rest of their grueling schedule, which they hope will lead to the NCAA tournament after they were left out of the 16-team field last year. The next challenge on that path will be Duquesne, who will visit the Irish on Saturday.

While preparing for the Dukes, Halfpenny will be able to sit down and enjoy her first win at the helm of the Irish program.

“It always feels good when [what] your team has practiced translates to gameday,” she said. “It certainly feels good to be 1-0 at Notre Dame. And heading into another week of preparation, it’s nice to learn lessons off of a win. Yeah, it definitely feels good.”

 

Contact Jack Hefferon at wheffero@nd.edu