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Women’s Lacrosse: New coach brings new Irish style

Brian Hartnett | Thursday, February 16, 2012

The new-look Irish will put their transformed style of play to the test when they open the season at home against No. 6 Stanford on Sunday.

Coming off a 10-9 season that ended with a loss in the Big East championship game, the No. 20 Irish will look significantly different than last year’s team. First-year coach Christine Halfpenny, who comes to Notre Dame after leading William & Mary to four consecutive 10-win seasons, will make her debut on the sidelines for the Irish. In her brief time at Notre Dame, Halfpenny has worked to implement a new style of play, one she describes as “learn fast, think fast, play fast.” As the name indicates, the style focuses on a high-tempo pace of play designed to maximize shots on goal. Halfpenny said the team has been remarkably quick in picking up the new offensive style.

“We have a number of very talented and skilled athletes here who are also very smart, so they have been quick on the uptake,” Halfpenny said. “Our four-week preseason could not have been more effective, and the players are certainly seeing some success in the system.”

This year’s Irish will feature several new faces on the field, as the team looks to fill the void left by the departure of all-Americans Shaylyn Blaney and Jackie Doherty, along with three other starters from last year’s team. Halfpenny said the team’s talented underclassmen will take on an increased role and become valuable contributors.

“I’m excited to see some of the young kids step up because, losing several players to graduation, we’ll need to rely on youthful faces starting this weekend,” Halfpenny said. “I’m hoping to see a number of contributors on the field, and I’m excited to see what combinations we can come up with.”

Despite the losses to graduation, the Irish do return 16 monogram winners. Key returnees for Notre Dame include senior attack Maggie Tamasitis and sophomore midfielder Kaitlyn Brosco, who were both named to the all-Big East preseason team. The Irish also feature a strong and experienced defensive front that includes seniors Jordy Shoemaker, Megan Sullivan and Kate Newall.

Although the Irish received strong preseason preparation against teams like Johns Hopkins, the team will face its toughest test in Stanford (0-2). In a preseason coaches’ poll, the Cardinal were picked to win the MPSF [Mountain Pacific Sports Federation], but have dropped their first two games, losing to No. 1 Northwestern and No. 18 Ohio State last weekend. Stanford graduated its top four goal-scorers and starting goalkeeper from last season but features a strong core of seniors in Anna Boeri, Emilie Boeri and Catherine Swanson. Swanson was named the MPSF’s Player of the Week for her efforts in the team’s first two games.

Halfpenny said beginning the season against a top-ranked opponent provides a good measuring stick for her young team.

“I think it’s great that we get an early test with an opponent that has been to the NCAA tournament in each of the last two seasons, as it will give us a good measure of where we are at this point,” Halfpenny said. “Athletically, I think we match up very nicely with them, and we’re very excited for this game.”

The Irish will open their season against Stanford on Sunday at 12:00 p.m. at Arlotta Stadium.