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Women’s Lacrosse: Notre Dame splits two during homestand

Joseph Monardo | Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Returning to Arlotta Stadium for a brief two-game

homestand, No. 6 Notre Dame found itself on both ends of routs last week. The Irish struggled mightily in a 16-10 loss to No. 2 Syracuse on Thursday before cruising to a dominant 18-5 victory over Villanova on Saturday.

The Irish (9-2, 3-2 Big East) traded goals with the Orange (8-2, 3-0) early, as each team found the net twice in the first six minutes of the game. After the early goals, the Irish offense struggled to add to its total, suffering a 13-minute scoreless stretch while Syracuse went on a 4-0 run. After senior midfielder Kate Newall broke the Irish scoring drought with a goal at the 9:37 mark, Notre Dame surrendered two more goals before senior Irish midfielder/defense Megan Sullivan found the net on a last-second attempt, cutting the deficit to 9-4 at halftime.

Irish coach Christine Halfpenny said the team’s scoring woes resulted mainly from sloppy play on the offensive end.

“I think we had some errors that Syracuse didn’t even force us into,” Halfpenny said. “We were throwing the ball away and doing things we just don’t do. I think we just lacked some energy.”

As the second half began, any momentum the Irish gained from Sullivan’s goal quickly reversed as the Orange reeled off four goals in a span of 2:28 to stretch their lead to nine.

After the visiting team’s initial outburst, the Irish held the Orange scoreless for 23 minutes and scored four goals to cut the lead to 13-8 in the process. Notre Dame would not come any closer, as Syracuse sealed the win with three goals in the final five minutes.

Junior goalie Ellie Hilling totaled ten saves for the Irish in a losing effort. As a team, the Irish totaled fewer shots than the Orange, 31-20, and lost the draw control battle, 18-9.

“I think winning the draw controls ended up giving Syracuse the possession they needed to gain the momentum they wanted and to generate the amount of looks they ultimately got on the cage,” Halfpenny said. “We both scored about 50 percent of our shots, but their amount of looks and time of possession was directly related to the draw control.”

Against Villanova (2-9, 0-3) on Saturday, the Irish scored three goals in the first five minutes and added another to jump out to a 4-0 lead before the Wildcats scored their first goal nearly halfway through the period. The Irish responded with another three-straight goal outburst before surrendering two scores to Villanova in the final minutes of the half. The Irish took a 7-3 lead into halftime.

“I mean, that is something we have to fix – under two minutes we shouldn’t be giving up goals,” Halfpenny said. “I think we need to play more solid defense, I think we have to dig in a little bit more, but … they both came on cards so we have to tighten that up under two minutes … we don’t want to give away momentum like that.”

Villanova notched the opening goal of the second half to pull within three. However, the Irish answered with an offensive explosion, outscoring the Wildcats 11-1 in the last 21 minutes of play and registering the final seven goals of the game.

“Once we got in motion, got the ball moving, I think we found a lot more success,” Halfpenny said.

Sophomore attack Lindsay Powell led the Irish with five goals, and sophomore attack Lauren Sullivan recorded a career-high four goals. With Hilling out due to illness, freshman goalkeeper Allie Murray collected nine saves and picked up her first career win in net for Notre Dame.

“At late notice before the game, she got the call that she was going to step in there and start for us … She knows that her job is to be prepared,” Halfpenny said. “She fights every day and I think that because she fights every day and works on her game, is why we saw this performance today. So I wasn’t surprised, but I am really, really proud of her.”

After ending their two-game losing streak, the Irish will retake the field and continue their Big East campaign Saturday at Connecticut.

Contact Joseph Monardo at jmonardo@nd.edu