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Women’s Lacrosse: Squad overcomes slow start to win

Brian Hartnett | Monday, March 4, 2013

After a flat start Saturday, No. 7/9 Notre Dame once again dominated the second half to remain undefeated following a victory over Duquesne.

Trailing 4-0 just minutes into the game and down 5-3 at the half, the Irish outscored the Dukes 7-3 in the final 30 minutes to earn a 10-8 victory at Rooney Field in Pittsburgh on Saturday.

The victory marks the third consecutive game the Irish (3-0) have held their opponent to three or fewer goals in the second half and the second time this season they have overcome a halftime deficit.

“I think it starts with having the ability to respond in situations and make adjustments,” Irish coach Christine Halfpenny said of the team’s second-half success. “It’s nice to know that your team has the ability to do that this early in the season. While it’s obviously a blessing to be able to come on strong in the final 30 minutes, we need to figure out how we can come out a lot stronger in those first five or 10 minutes than we have.”

Notre Dame struggled at the start of the game, as the Dukes (2-2) put four goals on the board in a little over three minutes. After Duquesne junior midfielder Caitlin Prince scored the fourth goal at the 26:52 mark, Halfpenny decided to use her first timeout.

“I could see that our defense was not organized, and they weren’t communicating,” Halfpenny said. “While I’m a coach that definitely likes to allow our girls to work their way through situations, it just wasn’t happening yesterday, so I had to use an early timeout three minutes into the game, which isn’t really something you want to do as a coach. But, from there, the game really swung.”

Following the timeout, the Irish embarked on an 8-1 run that helped put them in control of the game. Sophomore attack Shauna Pugliese scored a free-position goal at the 18:12 mark of the half to put the Irish on the board. Junior attack Lauren Sullivan and senior attack Jaimie Morrison followed with goals to cut Notre Dame’s halftime deficit to 5-3.

The Irish had little trouble finding an offensive rhythm in the second half, beginning the period with five goals in 12 minutes to take a 8-5 lead. Morrison added another goal, while senior attack Jenny Granger scored twice during the stretch. Notre Dame took its first lead at the 21:18 mark of the half when freshman midfielder Brie Custis scored her second career goal.

“I think we have such a great mix of veterans and rookies on offense,” Halfpenny said. “We have a perfect mix of youth, a little bit of naïve bliss and some great balance with the poise of our veterans. Jaimie and Jenny are really our one-two punch around the crease, and I think they were able to display that against Duquesne yesterday.”

Although the Dukes cut Notre Dame’s lead to one at the 15:10 mark, junior midfielder Margaret Smith netted a pair of goals in a 2-and-a-half minute stretch to help seal the Irish victory.

“Margaret continues to lead our midfield unit, and we’re thrilled with what she’s been able to do so far this season,” Halfpenny said.

Smith, Morrison and Granger led the Irish with two goals apiece, with Granger also contributing three assists in a five-point effort.

On the other end, senior goalie Ellie Hilling made 12 saves and held the Dukes to four goals over the final 55 minutes of the contest.

“[Hilling] was attacking the ball with her hands, and she did quite a bit to disrupt their offense out by the crease as well,” Halfpenny said. “She just shook off the first few goals and got back to her attacking style with confidence, and she was able to make a big change with 12 saves.”

Notre Dame will now look to maintain its winning streak when it hosts Detroit on Tuesday night. The Irish are scheduled to meet the Titans at 6 p.m. on Tuesday at Arlotta Stadium.

Contact Brian Hartnett at bhartnet@nd.edu