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ND Women’s Lacrosse

Irish to face off with Tar Heels

| Friday, April 1, 2016

Just over a week after a narrow loss to No. 4 Syracuse, No. 6 Notre Dame prepares for another top-five matchup with a conference opponent, as they travel to Chapel Hill to meet No. 3 North Carolina.

The Tar Heels (9-2, 3-0) are currently undefeated in ACC play, tied with Duke atop the conference standings. The only two defeats they have suffered this season were close, back-to-back encounters with Florida, currently ranked No. 2 in the nation, and undefeated Maryland, ranked No. 1. Both games were settled by just a single goal.

Despite the success the Tar Heels have had this season, Irish head coach Christine Halfpenny said her team will remain focused on their own game.

“North Carolina is a top team,” Halfpenny said. “I think that finishing on our plays and making big plays will be important. That’s what’s going to have to happen against Carolina. We’re going to play the way we play — we’re going to focus on ourselves, we’re going to play our style. They have a similar high-octane offense that we do. They’ve got their lefties, they’ve got their off-ball shooters, they’ve got their dodgers. We have the same thing, so it’s going to feel a lot like practice, to be honest, when we’re battling each other. We’re just going to be going up against a different color uniform.”

The Irish offense will face last year’s Lacrosse Magazine’s National Goalie of the Year in junior Caylee Walters, while for the draw, the Irish will be competing against senior attacker Sammy Jo Tracy, who is third in the ACC with 84 draw controls. With the Irish having already faced the two conference leaders, Louisville’s Kaylin Morissette and Syracuse’s Kayla Treanor, in their two defeats this year, Halfpenny said it is important her team limits Tracy’s ability to create possessions for her team.

Irish senior attack Kiera McMullan makes a pass during Notre Dame’s 16-4 victory over Virginia on March 19 at Arlotta Stadium.Grace Tourville | The Observer

Irish senior attack Kiera McMullan makes a pass during Notre Dame’s 16-4 victory over Virginia on March 19 at Arlotta Stadium.

“We are going to battle, once again, against one of the top draw specialists in the country in Sammy Jo Tracy,” Halfpenny said. “She’s doing a great job on the draw, self-drawing to herself, creating a lot of possessions for North Carolina in that regard. So we’re going to have to have our team strategy back at it again, utilize all of our weapons on the draw as well as on the circle, and then play our game. We’re going to have to stay focused on our game for a full 60 minutes against a great North Carolina team.”

Halfpenny added her team had been focusing on the draw and has been improving throughout the season.

“I think that our draw game is just getting better and better,” Halfpenny said. “It’s an area that I know we’ve focused on heavily, using not just our athleticism but really honing in on our skills, as well as us working with our teammates, really communicating, staying focused on the ball and ourselves. I think that’s been a huge takeaway lately.”

The Irish come into the game after a 17-9 win Monday over Marquette, led by a strong second half where the Irish outscored the Golden Eagles (3-7, 0-0 Big East) 7-2. Halfpenny said her team’s offensive performance in recent games has been a particular highlight.

“The opportunities we’re giving ourselves on the ball have been great,” Halfpenny said. “We just have a really, really great, high-octane offense that’s doing a nice job of being proactive and aggressive at the goal. Those are some things that I’m really proud of, getting great looks. At Marquette, we got back to 50% shooting — that’s where we want to be to reach our end goal, so I’m excited to build on that, and just coming back to defense, the plays we’re making on defense to give ourselves more possessions has been really exciting to see, so I’m really proud of that, as well.”

The game will begin at noon Saturday at Fetzer Field in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

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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.

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