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Women’s Lacrosse: Irish open conference play with victory over Louisville

Brian Hartnett | Monday, March 26, 2012

Returning to Arlotta Stadium after four games on the road, the No. 6 Irish scored nine consecutive goals over a 16-minute stretch to overcome a sluggish start and outlast Louisville 13-11 in their Big East conference-opener Saturday.

Coming off of a win against No. 18 Cornell, the Irish (7-0, 1-0 Big East) looked slow out of the gate, allowing the Cardinals (2-6, 0-1 Big East) to jump out to a 5-1 lead early in the first half. The Irish offense was stifled early on by Louisville junior goalie Danielle Pawliw, who notched nine saves in the opening half.

“I just thought we lacked focus early in the first half,” Irish coach Christine Halfpenny said. “I think we were taking advantage of whatever opportunity presented itself, not necessarily the best opportunities, and we rushed our shots, which is not characteristic of us.”

After Halfpenny called a timeout midway through the first half, the Irish rediscovered their first spark on offense, as sophomore attack Lindsay Powell scored at the 9:35 mark to end a long scoring drought for Notre Dame. The Irish then followed it up with three additional goals, one coming from senior attack Maggie Tamasitis in the final few seconds of the half, to go into the break tied 5-5.

Coming into the second half with momentum, the Irish went on a furious scoring run early, notching three goals in the first 90 seconds to widen their lead to 8-5. Powell would then add two consecutive goals for Notre Dame, increasing the team’s lead to 10-5 before Louisville sophomore midfielder Colleen O’Malley ended the Cardinals’ 23-minute scoreless stretch with a goal at the 23:55 mark of the second half. Halfpenny said the team’s scoring run resulted largely from increased patience at the offensive end.

“I think our shooters, instead of rushing their shots, took an extra second to see the goal and that obviously helped us out,” Halfpenny said. “They contained us nicely down to the low angles and once we got the ball moving to the backside a little more, we started to see more success.”

The Cardinals continued to challenge the Irish down the stretch, outscoring the Irish 6-3 during the last 23:55 of the second half, but late goals by Powell and sophomore attack Lauren Sullivan iced the game for the Irish, keeping their undefeated record intact.

The Irish saw eight different players score in the victory, with Powell and her four goals leading the way. The Irish also received key contributions from Tamasitis, who scored two goals and added four assists to contribute six points overall and junior midfielder McKenzie Brown, who notched two goals. Powell attributed her strong offensive outburst to strong fundamentals and sense of teamwork present in her fellow team members.

“It’s our whole team working together that makes me look good when I score goals,” Powell said. “This happened in the second half, when we started playing together as a team and playing our game of lacrosse.”

Notre Dame also received a stellar showing on the other end of the field from junior goalie Ellie Hilling, who stopped eight shots en route to her seventh-straight win in goal.

With the win, the Irish improve to 7-0 on the year and remain one of two undefeated programs in the nation, the other being perennial power and top-ranked Northwestern. Despite their early success, Halfpenny said the Irish are not done improving and will continue to stay focused on the immediate tasks at hand.

“Seven games in, I do think we certainly feel a sense of confidence, but we’re not done improving yet,” Halfpenny said. “Today, we developed a couple more sophomores and freshmen right there during the game. Honestly, 7-0 to us is great, but it’s just a number and just a path, so we’re staying focused on the next game.”

That next step for Notre Dame will come next weekend when the Irish travel east to face Big East foes Rutgers on Friday and Loyola Maryland on Sunday.

“We have to get better at ground balls and some of the other basics,” Halfpenny said. “If we can hammer home our basics, I think we’re going to be successful, but the road doesn’t get any easier. This team travels really well, and I know how hungry they are for the Big East, so we’re going to be ready for the next game.”

 

Contact Brian Hartnett at bhartnet@nd.edu