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Women’s Lacrosse: Undefeated Irish begin Big East play

Matthew DeFranks | Friday, March 23, 2012

The second season begins now.

No. 6 Notre Dame, after starting its season with six consecutive victories, opens Big East play Saturday with a game against Louisville.

“We’re looking at this as an 0-0 game,” Irish coach Christine Halfpenny said. “Neither one of us has played a Big East team yet and we’re both looking for our first win.”

The Irish (6-0) return to Arlotta Stadium following a trio of games over spring break that included wins in Boston over Boston University and in Florida over Yale and Cornell. Halfpenny said the games in Florida helped the team prepare for the warm weather when they returned to South Bend.

“We’ve just trained in this, so it’s not a shock to our system when we train in 80-degree weather all week long,” Halfpenny said. “If we can really stay focused on our game, I think we’re getting a preview of the end of April might look like.”

At the beginning of the season, Halfpenny said the Irish would be developing talent not only throughout the year, but also during individual games. She said the plan has not changed, despite the team’s hot start.

“Just because we won some games here, that’s no different,” Halfpenny said. “While we have a nice mix of veterans and youthful players on the field, we are continuously developing individual games and unit strategies throughout the course of the games.”

Louisville (2-5) enters the contest on the heels of a 20-10 loss to Jacksonville last Saturday.

“I think they’re a very well-coached team,” Halfpenny said. “Their top two scoring threats are very dynamic. Their systems and strategies are very good. They’re full of athletes. They’re a little it youthful on paper, but they’re already seven games deep.”

The Cardinals boast just two wins – over Longwood and Presbyterian – but have already faced top-ranked Northwestern and No. 15 Ohio State. The Irish defeated the Buckeyes 16-7 earlier this season.

Sophomore midfielder Nikki Boltja leads the Cardinals with 28 goals thus far after notching just six during her freshman campaign. Sophomore attacks Jamie Redding and Hillary Bushway – both with double-digit point figures – are also main contributors for Louisville.

“[Redding] has some nice experience from last season and then they also have Bushway on there who has done a good job for them,” Halfpenny said. “As usual, we’re going to take a look at their top scoring threats and come up with a game plan for all of them.”

Halfpenny stressed the importance of winning conference games to her team this week.

“I’ve been doing this too long to not understand that the second season is a new season and that’s the conference season,” Halfpenny said. “There is basically a golden ticket up for grabs with winning that automatic bid.

“[Winning the first conference game] just continues momentum. It builds confidence.”

The Irish and the Cardinals both open up conference play Saturday at 1 p.m. at Arlotta Stadium.


Contact Matthew DeFranks at mdefrank@nd.edu