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ND Women’s Lacrosse

Irish aim to build on momentum during road swing

| Thursday, February 23, 2017

The No. 11 Irish are looking to extend their four-game winning streak as they head to North Carolina for a two-game road swing against Elon and No. 8 Duke.

Notre Dame (4-1) is hoping to harness its momentum coming off a 12-5 win in its first road game of the season against Michigan on Sunday, Irish head coach Christine Halfpenny’s 100th win at the helm of the program.

Elon (4-0) and the Irish have never faced each other, so the matchup will be a new test for the two teams.

Irish senior attack Grace Muller cradles the ball during Notre Dame’s 21-9 win over Marquette on Feb. 14 at Loftus Sports Center.Renee Griffin | The Observer

Irish senior attack Grace Muller looks toward the ball during Notre Dame’s 21-9 win over Marquette on Feb. 14 at Loftus Sports Center.

The Phoenix are a fresh face in the world of lacrosse, and not only for Notre Dame: Women’s lacrosse became a varsity sport at Elon in the 2013-2014 season. However, the Phoenix have made an impression already, as they currently sit just outside the top-20 rankings and received votes in both the Inside Lacrosse and Coaches polls.

Elon started the season on the right foot and has yet to stop. Its first major test came against then-No. 13 Virginia, who they were able to topple in a close 11-10 game.

Elon is led offensively by junior attack Stephanie Asher, who currently leads the team with 17 goals and 18 points on the season. She is closely followed by senior attack Sloane Kessler, who has tallied 17 points so far this year, and sophomore defender Shannon Horan, who has 10 points in four games.

While the Irish are on offense, they will need to deal with junior defender Alexis Zadjura, who leads the Phoenix with four caused turnovers and eight ground balls. She has also won the draw control nine times. The Irish will also need to solve senior goalkeeper Rachel Ramirez, who is averaging more than six saves a game.

After playing Elon, the Irish will head 45 minutes east to tackle Duke (4-0) on Sunday in both teams’ first conference game of the 2017 season.

Notre Dame and Duke have had a back-and-forth rivalry over the course of the last few seasons, as it was the Blue Devils who sent the Irish home in the second round of the NCAA tournament in 2014. Most recently, however, the Irish topped Duke at home on Senior Day in 2016 in a 10-9 battle that went to overtime.

Duke is riding on the coattails of the momentum it picked up after downing then-No. 12 Stanford, 12-8, in the Patriot Cup on Saturday.

The Blue Devils are led by junior attack Kyra Harney, who has 17 points — including nine goals — on the season. Junior midfielder Maddie Crutchfield has also picked up nine goals so far this year.

Defensively, the Blue Devils turn to freshman midfielder Callie Humphrey, who has caused nine turnovers in four games, and sophomore goalkeeper Jamie Lockwood, who is averaging nearly eight saves per game.

The Irish will look to both some familiar and some newer faces as they look to take down Elon and Duke. Senior attack Cortney Fortunato has met the high expectations placed on her thus far, while sophomore midfielder Samantha Lynch, sophomore midfielder Makenna Pearsall and junior midfielder Molly Cobb have found success in their increased playing time so far.

Irish sophomore goalie Samantha Giacolone is coming off a season-high 12 saves against Michigan, which gives her an average of more than eight saves per game.

First draw against the Phoenix will take place at Rudd Field in Elon, North Carolina, at 6 p.m. Thursday.

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