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Women’s Lacrosse

Brian Hartnett | Tuesday, April 3, 2012

After seeing their undefeated record fall last weekend, the No. 6 Irish will look to rebound under the national spotlight Thursday at Arlotta Stadium when they square off with No. 2 Syracuse. The game against the Orange is part of a quick two-game homestand that also features a matchup with Villanova on Saturday.

Notre Dame (8-1, 2-1) embarked on a similar stretch of two games in three days last weekend, when it made a conference road trip to Rutgers and No. 15 Loyola (Md.). The Irish captured a thrilling 13-12 overtime win over the Scarlet Knights on Friday with a game-winning goal by sophomore midfielder Margaret Smith, but saw their hopes of an undefeated season vanish in a 17-11 loss to Loyola on Sunday, due mainly to a crucial 8-0 Greyhounds scoring run in the second half.

Irish coach Christine Halfpenny said she has confidence in her team’s ability to rebound from their first loss.

“Obviously, I don’t have a crystal ball in front of me, but I’ve seen our team respond really well to adversity over the course of the year,” Halfpenny said. “They’ve done a great job of getting rest, getting perspective, taking a look at what’s gone well and what they have to fix, and they’ve rebounded tremendously.”

Notre Dame will be given a grand stage on which to respond when they play Syracuse (6-2, 1-0) in a home night game televised by CBS Sports Network, marking the first appearance for the Irish on television this season. The Irish will face a formidable opponent in the Orange, who are currently on a five-game winning streak, featuring victories over No. 5 Florida, No. 3 Maryland and then-No. 18 Towson. The Orange feature a high-powered offense, headed by sophomore attack Alyssa Murray, who leads the team with 25 goals, and a defense allowing 9.125 goals per game.

“They’ve got some very nice speed, and they’re definitely doing a nice job offensively getting some big outputs from a number of scoring threats,” Halfpenny said. “Defensively, I think they play a really aggressive game and have the ability to change the momentum of the game. But I think we do a nice job of matching them from top to bottom in terms of depth and speed.”

Halfpenny said the team’s game plan for Syracuse revolves around smart play as well as an emphasis on the high-powered offensive attack that has characterized the Irish’s play this season.

“It’s going to be really important that we are aware of everybody’s needs on each unit,” Halfpenny said. “If we’re playing in a high-pressure situation, it’s important that, when we do gain control of the ball, we have a nice complement of possession and an attacking offense. We’re looking to play the Notre Dame brand of lacrosse, which is a high-scoring affair, but also allows our defense to be successful by controlling the game when we have possession.”

After hosting the Orange, Notre Dame will face a quick turnaround as they prepare to play Villanova (2-7, 0-1) on Saturday. The Wildcats have struggled this season, losing seven of their last eight contests and only topping the 10-goal mark twice this season. Senior attack Justine Donodeo leads the Wildcats with 22 goals, while junior defender Shawna Giust, who has won 16 ground balls on the season, anchors the team’s defensive front.

Despite the quick turnaround between games, Halfpenny said she is confident the Irish will be able to avoid a letdown against Villanova.

“We’ve already had quick turnarounds over spring break and last weekend,” Halfpenny said. “Our girls understand how to close the door on one game and get focused on the next one.”

The Irish will look to start a new winning streak when they battle Syracuse at 7 p.m. Thursday in Arlotta Stadium and host Villanova at 11 a.m. Saturday.

Contact Brian Hartnett at bhartnett@nd.edu