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Women’s Lacrosse: Halfpenny urges focus for Connecticut game

Matthew DeFranks | Friday, April 13, 2012

For Irish coach Christine Halfpenny and No. 7 Notre Dame, this week felt like February all over again – and not just because of the weather.

Following their first home defeat of the season, Halfpenny said the Irish (9-2, 3-2 Big East) reverted to a camp-like week of practice to prepare for a road test against Connecticut (7-4, 0-3) this Saturday.

“We’re at the point in the season right now where it’s imperative that we stay focused on our daily improvement and really stay focused on our team goals,” Halfpenny said. “We got back to the drawing board this week and it was almost like a mini-preseason again so that we can prepare for this final push through this month of April.”

Notre Dame split a pair of games last weekend, losing to No. 2 Syracuse 16-10 before rebounding to top Villanova 18-5.

In the win over the Wildcats, freshman goalkeeper Allie Murray garnered her first collegiate start, replacing junior goalkeeper Ellie Hilling, who missed the game with an illness. Murray made nine saves and allowed five goals to earn the victory.

Halfpenny said, despite Murray’s strong performance, Hilling will probably start Saturday, although she said the decision has not been made yet.

“Ellie’s been our starter all season and we feel really confident about what she brings to the table but at the same time, we know that Allie is ready to go,” Halfpenny said.

The Irish also added a familiar face to Notre Dame women’s basketball fans – graduate student Brittany Mallory. Mallory, a high school All-American midfielder, joined the team as a defender this week after the Irish fell in the national championship game to Baylor.

“Collectively, we were a very excited unit to add someone with championship caliber experience and character to our team,” Halfpenny said. “Ultimately, Brittany decided to make the commitment with really no promises of anything.”

Halfpenny said Mallory will need to learn the new schemes and systems but had a good week of practice.

“It’s like watching her get back on the bike,” Halfpenny said. “Her hands are still there [along with] her quickness, her quick release, her defense is still there. She’s certainly a threat and we’re going to work her in when she’s ready.”

Senior attacker M.E. Lapham leads the Huskies with 37 goals and eight assists while also corralling 24 draw controls. Lapham became Connecticut’s all-time leading scorer in its game against Columbia. Senior attacker Kiersten Tupper provides a solid second option for the Huskies with her 23 goals and 15 assists.

“[Lapham] is a very shifty, lefty attacker that certainly is their go-to player,” Halfpenny said. “[Tupper] certainly has the ability to dodge and play make with her assisting ability. We going to obviously have to limit them and contain them.”

Halfpenny said Connecticut’s style of play could also cause problems for the Irish.

“They are very athletic, mainly a [one-on-one] driving team and, to be honest, we’ve struggled at time with teams that have hard, long [one-on-one] drives because it’s not exactly what we look like,” Halfpenny said. “They’ve been forcing a number of caused turnovers against great teams and that’s going to be something that we’re focused on.”

Notre Dame and Connecticut square off Saturday at 11 a.m. in Storrs, Conn.

 

Contact Matthew DeFranks at mdefrank@nd.edu