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ND Women’s Lacrosse

Michigan poses first road test for Notre Dame

| Friday, February 17, 2017

For the first time in program history, No. 8 Notre Dame will play at Michigan Stadium, as the Irish open this year’s road schedule with Michigan at the iconic football venue.

The Irish (3-1) come into the game having played four games at Loftus Sports Center in 10 days, the last of which was a 21-9 victory over Marquette. The victory was the third straight for Notre Dame, after the Irish lost the season-opener to No. 9 Northwestern by a single goal.

Speaking after the win over the Golden Eagles, Irish head coach Christine Halfpenny said her team has to recover quickly from the physical contest.

Irish sophomore attack Nikki Ortega cradles the ball during Notre Dame’s 21-9 win over Marquette on Tuesday. Ortega scored a career high seven points in the game. Ann Curtis | The Observer

Irish sophomore attack Nikki Ortega cradles the ball during Notre Dame’s 21-9 win over Marquette on Tuesday. Ortega scored a career high seven points in the game.

“We’re going to have to recover,” Halfpenny said. “It was high performance tonight, we emptied the tank like I asked them to, but we’re going to have high recovery tomorrow, break down this film and prepare for Michigan because we’re continuing to battle for the crown in the midwest. We’re going to work our way through these Big Ten opponents.”

After going 4-4 in road games last year, including a defeat at North Carolina in an NCAA Tournament matchup, the Irish will be hoping to set a tone of improvement on the road this year with this, the first of a three-game road trip that will see the Irish travel to North Carolina to meet Elon and No. 10 Duke before the end of the month.

The Irish have a chance to set that tone at the largest stadium in the country, as the Wolverines (0-2) host their outdoor games at Michigan Stadium. This will be Michigan’s last year of doing so before building a dedicated lacrosse venue, and this meeting therefore looks set to be the only lacrosse game — men’s or women’s — Notre Dame will ever play at “The Big House.”

If the Irish are looking for positive omens for their road opener, last year’s encounter with Ohio State may be a place to start. The only road victory Notre Dame recorded over a ranked team last season came against the then-No. 15 Buckeyes at another well-known football site, when the Irish won 17-9 at Ohio Stadium. Halfpenny said she enjoys traveling with her current squad and believes they have what it takes to start well on the road.

“The comfy confines of home are comfy,” Halfpenny said. “But this will be pretty fun. This team has been fun to travel with in the fall and preseason. They’re very low-drama, they’re very flexible, they have great leadership and everybody’s just very excited to make this trip more exciting. We’re going to play Michigan at The Big House, and that’s really neat. Not everybody gets to say they’ve played Michigan at The Big House.”

The Wolverines remain a young program, only in their fourth year of existence, with last year’s 6-12 record being a high for the program. The Irish have met Michigan once before at Notre Dame in 2015, a game Notre Dame won 21-12. In two games this year, the Wolverines remain winless, having lost to Oregon and James Madison. Among the key players for the Wolverines will be senior midfielder Anna Schueler. Schueler is tied for her team’s lead in goals, has recorded four of Michigan’s five assists and leads the team with eight draw controls. Halfpenny said that, despite their short history, Schueler and the Wolverines can still pose a threat.

“I’m excited about it, Michigan is a very talented team, very athletic, very physical,” Halfpenny said. “They have great speed, a great draw controller, they’ve got some serious weapons on offense.”

The Irish and the Wolverines will meet Saturday at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor. Opening draw is at 1 p.m.

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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