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Women’s Lacrosse: Hilling sets wins record

Jack Hefferon | Monday, March 25, 2013

 

Senior Ellie Hilling has won several games over her long career that were more important than this weekend’s matchups against No. 19 Rutgers and Villanova.

But after helping No. 7 Notre Dame shut down both the Scarlet Knights (8-2, 0-1 Big East) and Wildcats (5-4, 0-1), no goalie in Irish history has recorded more wins than her 41.

“These two wins were just a testament to Ellie and all the work that she puts in,” Irish coach Christine Halfpenny said. “She worked very hard this week in scouting our opponents, and it’s special thing for her to be able to have her name in the record books.”

Hilling’s record-setting weekend featured 20 saves and just eight goals allowed but was far from Notre Dame’s only exceptional performance as the Irish (8-0, 2-0) continued their unbeaten start.

Against Rutgers on Friday, the offense propelled the Irish early, as the team jumped out to an early 3-0 lead and never trailed in their 9-3 victory. Seven different athletes scored for the Irish and the defense allowed the Scarlet Knights just one first-half goal. In addition to stopping shots, Hilling was a force on defense, leading the team with five ground balls as she recorded her record-breaking 40th win.

“Ellie has been unreal this season, especially these past two games,” sophomore defender Barbara Sullivan said. “If we commit a foul and give them a free-position shot, I know she’s going to stop it, because she will.”

Notre Dame rode that momentum into its game with Villanova on Sunday, and the Irish defense won the day. The Wildcats managed just one goal in each half, while the Irish offense exploded in the second half to secure a 14-2 victory. Irish sophomore midfielder Caitlin Gargan was the breakout star of the day, as she tallied four goals and six points after scoring just three goals in her previous six games.

“[Gargan] has been consistent, and has persevered through her development this season,” Halfpenny said. “Today’s game is the perfect example of what happens when you stick with it, work hard, and stay focused on the moment.”

Sullivan also had a breakthrough moment of her own, as the preseason all-conference selection sparked a fast break and punctuated it with her first career goal. Halfpenny said the team couldn’t have been happier to see Sullivan, who leads the team in ground balls and draw controls, finally find the back of the net.

“Barbara can be a force all over the field,” she said. “She’s the most selfless player; whatever we need, she gives it to us.”

With the pair of wins, Notre Dame has now won its first eight games for the second consecutive season. The Irish will have 12 full days off but Halfpenny said they won’t be able to rest on their laurels as they prepare for their next game at No. 20 Louisville on April 5.

“It’s a huge confidence boost for us to be able to come in here against two solid teams that had really good game plans for us and be able to finish both games off in the second half,” Halfpenny said. “But we need to work on being on the same page, every play, for 60 minutes. Coming up against a very well-coached, physical, and talented Louisville team, we’re going to have to bring all our weapons for that battle.”

Contact Jack Hefferon at wheffero@nd.edu