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Women’s Lacrosse: Midfield movement

By Brian Hartnett | Thursday, February 28, 2013

For the second consecutive game, No. 7/9 Notre Dame struggled to score in the first half. Then junior midfielder Margaret Smith took over.

The Irish co-captain scored three consecutive goals in under three minutes late in the first half to put Notre Dame (2-0) ahead and the Irish remained in control from there, defeating No. 13/18 Ohio State 13-8 at Loftus Sports Center on Wednesday.

“I think [Smith] was a force to reckon with today, and she was absolutely the spark,” Irish coach Christine Halfpenny said. “If you could have heard her in the huddle, it was exactly what a coach wants to hear her leader doing, taking the team out there and saying, ‘Let’s finish this.’ She was just awesome today for all 60 minutes.”

Notre Dame looked at ease offensively in the game’s first few minutes, taking an early 3-1 lead. The Irish offense soon went cold, suffering a 15-minute scoreless drought during which as the Buckeyes (2-2) took a 4-3 lead.

Smith snapped the scoreless streak with a goal at the 7:16 mark of the half. She added another goal 58 seconds later to give the Irish a 5-4 lead and scored once more with 4:37 left in the half.

“[Ohio State] was definitely flooding the ball-side with double teams, and it was just a lot of my teammates finding me on the backside and allowing me to find two versus one opportunities,” Smith said. “Honestly, it could have been anyone in that position, since it was just us working together as a team.”

After Ohio State junior midfielder Cara Facchina cut the Irish lead to 6-5 with 1:32 in the first half, Notre Dame senior attack Betsy Mastropieri scored on a free position shot to give the Irish a 7-5 lead at halftime.

Smith said Halfpenny’s halftime message heavily stressed persistence on defense.

“[Halfpenny] just told us to keep working,” Smith said. “A lot of their goals were just the same thing and them finding the middle, so we needed to stick to our gameplan and do what we do.”

At the start of the second half, Notre Dame’s lead tightenedagain appeared to be . Ohio State cut the Irish lead to 7-6 and later 8-7 after Buckeyes freshman midfielder Cian Dabrowski scored her third goal of the night.

But the Irish stifled the Ohio State attack, holding the Buckeyes to one goal over the final 25 minutes of the game.

Halfpenny said the team’s defense succeeded by sticking to its original plan in the second half.

“We didn’t make any adjustments because we felt like what we were doing was working,” she said. “We knew it was going to be a slugfest, and we were prepared for that. We just had to really eliminate more of their second-chance opportunities in the second half than we did in the first.”

Notre Dame sealed the victory by tallying five of the game’s final six goals to the five-goal victory.

Smith, who also scored the team’s second goal, finished with four goals on the night. Senior attack Jaimie Morrison finished with six points, scoring two goals and assisting on four others, while Mastropieri added two goals.

Halfpenny said she was proud of the team’s mental toughness and ability to come back for the second time in as many games.

“At the end of the day, it’s a long game,” she said. “All the girls know that, and we talk about it all the time. 60 minutes is a long time, so mistakes will happen and turnovers will happen, but we always look to get the ball back and stay resilient because I think the team has shown a lot of resilience at this young point of the season.”

Halfpenny said the victory over the ranked Buckeyes is a key win for an Irish team still looking to discover its identity.

“I think it’s a big confidence booster for our girls to know that everything you’re working on works,” Halfpenny said. “They haven’t been able to see themselves against an outside opponent, so when you show up at game two against a highly-ranked opponents that’s very physical and athletic – it’s a huge confidence boost to know that our gameplan works and that we can build off it.”

Notre Dame will return to action Saturday when it travels to Pittsburgh to face Duquesne.

Contact Brian Hartnett at bhartnet@nd.edu