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ND Women’s Lacrosse

Irish prepare to square-off with Cardinals in ACC quarterfinals

| Wednesday, April 27, 2016

No. 9 Notre Dame begins postseason play Thursday when it travels to Blacksburg, Virginia, to face off against No. 7 Louisville in the quarterfinals of the ACC tournament.

The Irish (12-5, 4-3 ACC) will seek to exact revenge on the Cardinals (12-4, 3-4), who bested the Irish in a double-overtime decision on March 5, 10-9. The defeat was Notre Dame’s first loss of the regular season and only loss in its first 10 games of 2016.

The Irish enter postseason play after finishing their regular season slate in a somewhat up-and-down manner, as they dropped three of their last five games. Though each of their three losses came to ranked opponents, including No. 3 North Carolina and No. 4 USC, the Irish will only see the schedule get more difficult from this point on. The ACC is one of the strongest conferences in the sport, with six of the eight teams at the conference tournament currently ranked in the top 20 nationally.

The Irish hold the No. 3 seed in the tournament thanks to their 4-3 conference record, which trailed only No. 5 Syracuse and the Tar Heels. Irish senior midfielder Hannah Hartman said the team hopes to continue offensively the trend it started in its final regular season matchup against No. 14 Ohio State.

“I definitely anticipate a fast start this weekend,” Hartman said. “Our offense found its mojo, both in the fast break and settled play, during our last regular season game against Ohio State, and I think we will carry that into tournament play.”

Hartman also said the way the team prepares for the postseason differs slightly from their regular season practice routine.

“We definitely focus more on the quality of the reps versus the quantity of the reps,” Hartman said. “We are pretty much just sharpening our skills that we developed throughout the season.”

An explosive Irish offense would certainly give the Irish a fighter’s chance, assuming freshman goalkeeper Samantha Giacolone’s play remains at the level it has appeared to be at in recent weeks. After completing her last two games of the regular season with 17 saves to just 14 goals allowed, Giacolone was awarded Inside Lacrosse magazine’s National Rookie of the Week award Tuesday.

Irish freshman goalie Samantha Giacolone makes a save during Notre Dame’s 5-4 loss against USC on April 18 at Arlotta Stadium.Kathleen Donahue | The Observer

Irish freshman goalie Samantha Giacolone makes a save during Notre Dame’s 5-4 loss against USC on April 18 at Arlotta Stadium.

Giacolone and the Irish defense thrived against the usually high-powered offenses of USC and Ohio State. Despite the result of the tightly contested 5-4 loss to the Trojans, the Irish defense put forth one of its best statistical efforts of the season, as the Trojan offense was the top-ranked scoring unit in the country entering the contest. The Irish also forced 19 turnovers and drew even on ground balls against the Trojans.

If Notre Dame defeats Louisville on Thursday, it will move on to play the winner of Syracuse and Boston College the next day. The Irish dropped their home game against Syracuse in a 12-11 decision March 26, while they beat Boston College by a score of 14-4 February 21. In fact, Notre Dame could progress through the entire tournament bracket without once seeing a team it beat in the regular season, despite its winning record in conference play. Its three conference losses came to Louisville, Syracuse and North Carolina — each of whom are starting in different sections of the tournament bracket. The Irish could conceivably face all three of those teams en route to a conference championship.

The Irish begin their conference tournament play Thursday in Blacksburg, Virginia, when they face off against the Cardinals at 7:30 p.m. at Lane Stadium.

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