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Women’s Lacrosse: Irish excited to honor seniors, fight cancer at game

Jack Hefferon | Friday, April 27, 2012

Coming off a devastating 17-7 loss to No. 1 Northwestern on Wednesday, No. 6 Notre Dame will look to bounce back, honor its seniors and help find a cure for cancer in a single game against Cincinnati on Saturday.

After besting some of the top teams in the nation this season, the Irish (12-3, 5-2 Big East) were excited for the chance to take on the Wildcat dynasty. Northwestern has won six of the last seven national championships. The Wildcats were able to force Notre Dame out of its usual game though, and overpowered the Irish’s upset efforts.

“Everybody was disappointed with the final outcome, especially when we made mistakes that were uncharacteristic of us,” Irish coach Christine Halfpenny said. “We had some turnovers we typically don’t have, we had some opportunities we just didn’t finish on. It’s just tough.”

After the tough loss and a late return from Evanston, Ill., – not to mention four games in 11 days – Halfpenny elected to give her team the day off on Thursday.

“[Thursday] was a day to take stock in what an awesome journey it’s been to this point, relax, rejuvenate and come back ready to take another step forward,” Halfpenny said. “We want to close out the regular season on a high note.”

Notre Dame will look to cap off the season against Cincinnati (3-11, 0-6), a team that has traditionally fallen at the bottom of the conference standings. The Bearcats have yet to win a conference game since joining the Big East in 2008.

Despite their in-league struggles, Halfpenny said Cincinnati will still pose a physically-imposing challenge to her players.

“They have a lot of heart,” she said. “These guys battle, they’ve got nice speed and they’re very athletic. Plus they’ll be looking for their first-ever Big East win, so that’s something you can’t look past.”

Notre Dame is coming off an important game, and will be playing a weak opponent. Throw in the fact that Notre Dame is locked into the No. 3 seed for the Big East playoffs, and Saturday’s matchup might appear to be a classic trap game for the Irish.

However, Halfpenny said her team will be as motivated as ever when they take the field.

“I think we’ve done a really good job – especially our leaders on the field – in keeping the team focused and remembering that lacrosse is a game of momentum,” Halfpenny said. “Cincinnati has done a good job of scoring on everybody this year, and we know what they’re capable of. I’m excited to see how hungry they are when that first whistle goes off.”

The Irish will also draw inspiration from two other celebrations associated with the season finale. Notre Dame will raise funds and awareness for cancer research as part of its second annual “Lax for the Cure” festivities.

In addition, the team will celebrate its eight seniors before the game as part of their last regular season home match.

While this may be Halfpenny’s first year with the program, she said she has already formed a lifelong bond with her senior leaders.

“This is going to be a really special group for me throughout the remainder of my career at Notre Dame,” she said. “They have embraced all the change that was necessary for us to succeed this season, and they’ve showed such great leadership. These eight will always have a special place in my heart … They’ve laid the first brick of this new foundation, and I’m really excited to honor them on Saturday.”

On a Saturday full of lacrosse at Arlotta Stadium, Cincinnati and Notre Dame will face off at noon.

Contact Jack Hefferon at wheffero@nd.edu