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ND Women’s Lacrosse

Notre Dame opens homestand against rival Stanford

| Thursday, February 11, 2016

No. 7 Notre Dame plays its first home game of 2016 on Saturday, opening a four-game home stand by hosting No. 16 Stanford.

The Irish (1-0) come into the game after a comfortable 18-5 victory over the defending Atlantic Sun champion Jacksonville, the largest road win for Notre Dame since 2011, and will hope to continue that form against another team that made the 2015 NCAA tournament.

Senior attack Rachel Sexton works her way around a defender during Notre Dame’s 10-8 loss to Louisville on April 19 at Arlotta Stadium.Amy Ackermann | The Observer

Senior attack Rachel Sexton works her way around a defender during Notre Dame’s 10-8 loss to Louisville on April 19 at Arlotta Stadium.

The Cardinal open their season at Notre Dame after boasting the highest-scoring offense in the nation last year and leading the nation in draw controls. Stanford returns senior midfielder Lucy Dikeou, who led the team in scoring last year as well as sophomore midfielder Kelly Myers, who had 54 draw controls and 28 goals in her freshman year. Irish head coach Christine Halfpenny said the Cardinal have plenty of talent, but her focus remains on her own team.

“We obviously know them well — they’re very talented, they have a great coaching staff and they’re very athletic,” Halfpenny said. “That being said, the focus at this point in the season is still on us and on us being better every single outing.”

Notre Dame will have the opportunity to make up for last year’s game at Stanford, when the Irish lost 12-10 despite outshooting the Cardinal 36-16 and winning 16 draw controls to Stanford’s eight. The 2016 Irish team will remember that game, as it returns 10 starters. However, Halfpenny said she is not concerned with last year’s contest.

“I think that this team is all about being the best team it can be and being better every day,” Halfpenny said. “As you look at the next opponent for us, obviously there’s history to it, but our schedule is filled with opponents who we have history with, so our focus is still going to just remain on us.”

The game is the first of four consecutive games at home for the Irish, who will not be on the road again until next month, and is also one of 12 games this year against a 2015 NCAA tournament team.

Junior midfielder Alex Dalton advances the ball during Notre Dame’s 10-8 loss to Louisville on April 19 at Arlotta Stadium.Amy Ackermann | The Observer

Junior midfielder Alex Dalton advances the ball during Notre Dame’s 10-8 loss to Louisville on April 19 at Arlotta Stadium.

Although Notre Dame comes into the game off a comfortable victory in its season opener, Halfpenny said she still believes her team could deliver an even better performance this weekend if they can reduce errors.

“We have a long way to go,” Halfpenny said. “We have a lot of things to tighten up as we look ahead, as our schedule continues to toughen up going through our nonconference slate. We definitely have to clean up some unforced errors so we can play the aggressive style we want.”

Halfpenny said the Cardinal pose a perfect challenge for the Irish early in the season to prepare the team for another year of competitive conference play in the ACC.

“I think it’s going to be another great opportunity to challenge ourselves and I think that this team is absolutely ready to focus on us and to put our best foot forward on Saturday after some more practice,” Halfpenny said.

Although Notre Dame returns a strong pool of starters, Halfpenny said many Irish freshmen impressed her against Jacksonville and she believes they may have the opportunity to continue to make an impact in their home debuts.

“They bring great experience, a couple of them had a chance to compete on the all-world scene at U-19 level this summer and they bring outstanding stick skills,” Halfpenny said. “Coming from the areas of the country they come from, they’ve played some high-level lacrosse even in high school and can come in right into the fold. They have outstanding leadership; I think our leaders are gaining so much of the attention that it allows these freshmen to come in, not quite slide under the radar, but have their hands free a little more.”

The Irish and the Cardinal will meet indoors at Loftus Sports Center at noon Saturday.

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About Daniel O'Boyle

Daniel O'Boyle is a senior sports writer living in Alumni Hall, majoring in Political Science. He is currently on the Notre Dame Women's Basketball, Men's Tennis and Women's Soccer beats. Originally from Belfast, Northern Ireland, Daniel spends most of his free time attempting to keep up with second-flight English soccer and his beloved Reading FC. He believes Lonzo Ball is the greatest basketball player of all time.

Contact Daniel