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ND Women’s Lacrosse: Double Trouble

Cory Bernard | Friday, April 12, 2013

After defeating Cincinnati 13-6 last Sunday, the No. 5/6 Irish tied the program record for best start to a season with their 10th straight victory. This weekend, the squad puts its streak to the test with two home games against ranked opponents.

Notre Dame (10-0, 4-4 Big East) will face No. 17/20 Loyola today and No. 8/8 Georgetown on Sunday.

Loyola (5-6, 2-1) lost 14-11 to Georgetown (8-2, 3-0) in its most recent contest. The Greyhounds led the Hoyas by one goal at various points in the second half and never trailed by more than two until the final five minutes.

“Their record does not quite indicate the talent that they have on their roster and the talent that they have this year,” Irish coach Christine Halfpenny said of the Greyhounds. “I think that obviously, when you have a 5-6 record you can get caught up in ‘they’re on a down year,’ but quite honestly, they’re a young team.”

Loyola has already defeated No. 7/7 Penn State and then-No. 16 Towson this year and also dropped close contests to No. 20 Johns Hopkins and No. 11/15 Virginia early in the season. Halfpenny said the Irish are focusing not on Loyola’s record but on its personnel.

“They’re a team that’s fielding mainly sophomores and freshmen, and that’s what you see early on in the season,” Halfpenny said of the Greyhounds’ close losses. “Sometimes there are a couple early one-goal losses and really that’s all it’s been, a couple of one-goal losses that have kept them from having a much better record, so we haven’t as much gotten caught up in what their record is.”

After reeling off 10 straight victories to start the season, the Irish have a chance to break the school record for best start to the season, currently held by the 2004 squad. This year’s team also sits tied with the 2002 squad for most conference wins without a loss. 

Halfpenny said the Irish talked about breaking the season-opening winning streak even before the season began.

“We are aware of it and it certainly has been a goal of our team,” she said of the record. “Last year, the team had set the same goal, and this year the players really want to be part of a team that leaves a legacy behind. They are aware of that opening streak, it’s certainly exciting.”

Halfpenny said the Irish have not let the excitement distract them.

“I think that what has allowed us and put us in this position at this point to be 10-0 is the fact that we are not really getting caught up in the big picture and the hype of the situation,” she said. “We are really focusing on the details. We are focusing on what’s gotten us to this point, which is effort, our athleticism and our resilience as a group.”

In its second game of the weekend, Notre Dame will face a Georgetown team ranked 10th in the country in scoring offense, averaging exactly 14 goals per game. The Irish are not far behind as they score 13.7 goals per game, which ranks 14th nationally. Notre Dame goalkeeper Ellie Hilling ranks 11th nationally with a .474 save percentage, but Halfpenny said the Irish will have to rely on a team effort to stop the Hoyas.

“They’re very similar to us in the fact that they have a number of different scoring threats, they move the ball, they have great, crisp passing, they certainly will disrupt your offensive transition,” Halfpenny said of Georgetown. “At the end of the day, we’re going to attack their team offense with our team defense, and we’ll obviously have to pay some special attention to a couple of their facilitators.”

Notre Dame faces Loyola tonight at 7 p.m. and Georgetown on Sunday at 2 p.m. Weather permitting, both games will be played at Arlotta Stadium.

Contact Cory Bernard at cbernard@nd.edu