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Women’s Lacrosse: Irish to face Vanderbilt in midweek competition

Jack Hefferon | Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Coming in hot off two of its largest wins of the season, No. 7 Notre Dame will look to keep the momentum rolling today when it takes on No. 19 Vanderbilt in a rare midweek matinee.

After receiving their first two losses of the season back-to-back against No. 14 Loyola and No. 2 Syracuse, the Irish (10-2, 4-2 Big East) were forced to go to the drawing board, and back to basics. Since then, the team has rebounded in a big way, besting Villanova and Connecticut by a combined 20 goals.

“We did a lot of work last week before Connecticut, knowing that what we did then would directly be benefitting us for these two games this week, as well,” Irish coach Christine Halfpenny said. “We went back to the fundamentals last week and we got better at them, and we were able to see that progression throughout the course of the game at UConn. So I was really pleased with that.”

That simplistic approach has succeeded for the Irish so far, but it will be tested once again by the deceptively tough Commodores (7-6, 1-4 ALC). While its record might indicate a middle-of-the-pack team, Vanderbilt has turned in some surprising victories nationally this season, and Halfpenny said the Commodore offense is one of the best in the country.

“We’re going to have to contain their high-scoring offense,” she said. “You’ve got to respect what they can do with that ball. They move it around, and are able to thread the needle with their passes. They have a selfless style of offense, so that means our defense has to be ready, and has to play a step ahead of their offense.”

Chief among the concerns for the Irish defense will be Commodore senior midfielder Ally Carey, who leads the team in shots, goals and points. But while Irish junior goalkeeper Ellie Hilling will be focused on Carey’s shot, Halfpenny is more worried about the senior’s ability on the draw, where her 64 draw controls place her in the nation’s top-10.

“I really think they have one of the best players in the country in Ally Carey,” Halfpenny said. “She can really make a difference on the draw, so that will be an area we focus on.”

On the other end of the field, the Irish will look to continue thriving off a balanced attack. The team has had eight or more players score in each of the past two games, which means opposing defenses can’t single out any one player to key on, Halfpenny said.

“We have offensive systems, but at the same time there’s a lot of freedom to be creative within it. Everyone needs to contribute in their own unique way,” Halfpenny said. “A key component to our success this season is that we’ve had eight to 10 scoring threats in any given game. When we’re able to do that, it makes it difficult for any defensive scheme.”

The season is beginning to wind down for the Irish, and as it does every game takes on increased importance for postseason seeding and securing a spot in the NCAA tournament. But even with all the pressure, the Irish insist the furthest they are looking into the future is this afternoon’s opening faceoff.

“Right now we’re just taking things one game at a time and one day at a time,” Halfpenny said. “There’s so many new things this year that we’re just staying focused on the little things, and letting those take care of the big things.”

The Irish and the Commodores will square off at Arlotta Stadium at 2 p.m.

 

Contact Jack Hefferon at wheffero@nd.edu