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Women’s Lacrosse: ND to face duo of Big East squads

Brian Hartnett | Friday, March 22, 2013

 

After maintaining a perfect record against non-conference opponents, No. 7 Notre Dame will commence its final season of Big East play when it welcomes No. 19 Rutgers to Arlotta Stadium on Friday night. The Irish will then face off against Villanova on Sunday afternoon.

Notre Dame (6-0) won both of its games over spring break, coming from behind to defeat Boston University 16-11 on March 9 and holding on to best Vanderbilt 12-11 on March 13. 

One of four remaining undefeated teams in the nation, the Irish have gotten off to a strong start for the second straight year.  The team won its first eight games last season.

Irish coach Christine Halfpenny said the team’s strong start is a result of its steadfast preparation in practice.

“Our team has done a really good job of embracing the process the game entails, which is coming out, having a good preseason, feeling incredibly confident about our skills, doing a good job IQ-wise of learning our strategies and making each other better,” she said. “At the end of the day, the girls have really focused on getting better and working together to define exactly what our identity is going to be.”

With the majority of their non-conference play completed, the Irish now look toward competing for the Big East title one last time before joining the ACC next season.

“There’s an unfortunate irony because this is the last year the Big East is going to be fully intact, and it’s turning out to be its strongest year,” Halfpenny said.

In addition to the Irish and Scarlet Knights (7-1), fellow conference members No. 6 Syracuse, No. 8 Georgetown, No. 18 Loyola (Md.) and No. 20 Louisville are ranked in the current deBeer Media Poll. Halfpenny said the conference’s strength fuels the Irish. 

 

“There are seven or eight teams that are very strong right now, which makes our conference incredibly tough from top to bottom and motivates us,” Halfpenny said. “We can’t take a day off, and we can’t look at the jersey. We have to show up and play our game for 60 minutes.”

The Irish will face a Rutgers team off to its best start in program history. The Scarlet Knights currently sit first in the nation in scoring defense, allowing only 5.57 goals per game, while senior goalie Lily Kalata ranks fifth in the country for both goals-against average and save percentage.

“You have to give [Kalata] a lot of credit for the way she plays – she’s outstanding right now,” Halfpenny said. “She’s been a consistent force in all four of her years at Rutgers, and we’ve obviously been paying attention to what she’s doing.”

Halfpenny said Rutgers and Notre Dame have much in common, especially in the teams’ styles of play. 

“[Rutgers is] a solid team from top to bottom, they have great depth and they’re almost a mirror image of us, a great veteran and rookie mix that gives them a fresh look this year,” Halfpenny said.

Notre Dame will wrap up its brief homestand with a matchup against Villanova (4-3) on Sunday. After a 1-3 start to the season, the Wildcats have won their last three games, with the latest triumph coming in an 11-7 victory over Davidson last weekend.

“[Villanova has] had a marked improvement from last year, and I have great respect for its coach, Julie Young, who has a great system in place,” Halfpenny said.

Sophomore attack Jessica Mucci, who ranks second in the country with 3.43 assists per game, leads the Villanova offense along with sophomore attack Jackie Froccaro, who leads the team with 15 goals.

“They have some solid shooters, and we’ll have to be ready for their feeding game,” Halfpenny said. “Villanova was very competitive with us last year, and we’re looking forward to another competitive game Sunday.”

Notre Dame will face Rutgers at 7 p.m. Friday and host Villanova at 1 p.m. Sunday. The games will either be played at Arlotta Stadium or Loftus Sports Center, depending on the weather.

Contact Brian Hartnett at bhartnet@nd.edu