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ND Women’s Lacrosse

Notre Dame hopes to bounce back from loss to UNC against Kennesaw State

| Wednesday, April 5, 2017

No. 12 Notre Dame will take a break from its ACC schedule this week, traveling to Georgia for a non-conference matchup with Kennesaw State.

The Owls (5-4, 1-2 A-Sun) have been among the top offensive teams, scoring an average of 15.11 goals per game, putting them at seventh in the nation. They have matched or exceeded the 20 goal mark four times. However, Kennesaw State has struggled on the other end, ranking in the bottom twenty in the nation in scoring defense.

Irish senior attack Grace Muller fights through a crowd of Ohio State defenders during Notre Dame's 16-13 win over the Buckeyes on March 7 at Arlotta Stadium.Kathleen Donahue | The Observer

Irish senior attack Grace Muller fights through a crowd of Ohio State defenders during Notre Dame’s 16-13 win over the Buckeyes on March 7 at Arlotta Stadium.

In what may be a high-scoring affair, Irish senior forward Cortney Fortunato could get chances to increase her already-impressive scoring tally for the season. She currently sits eighth in the nation in goals and in a tie for ninth in points.

The Owls’ high-scoring offense has been driven by multiple players, with four different Kennesaw State players — sophomore midfielder Haley Swift, junior attack Connor Zophy, senior midfielder Sydney Farwick and senior midfielder Taylor McGhee — scoring 24 or more goals this season and a fifth — freshman midfielder Izzy Palermo — with more than 15.

Attempting to stop those players from adding to their totals will be sophomore Irish goalkeeper Samantha Giacalone. Giacolone has been a standout performer for the Irish (9-5, 3-2 ACC) in the past two weeks, earning national Player of the Week honors for her performance in the team’s victory over Syracuse, before making a career-high 18 saves in the team’s 16-9 loss to North Carolina. That performance saw Giacolone climb to third in the nation in total saves. Giacolone may be tested regularly against Kennesaw State, which has proven unafraid to take shots so far this season. The Owls are first in the nation in both shots per game, with 37.78, and shots on goal per game, with 28.11.

The Owls also sit second in the nation in draw controls per game with 16.78. Speaking after her team’s defeat to the Tar Heels, Irish head coach Christine Halfpenny said her team has been focusing on improvement in that area all season, and believes her squad may be close to winning crucial possessions at the draw.

“The draw is an area we’ve been looking at since the beginning of the season,” Halfpenny said. “The ball hit our sticks first a number of times [against North Carolina], so we’ve just got to work on coming up with it, going in twos, being a little more convicted and getting our feet behind those ground balls.”

Against an unranked Owls team, who were defeated 20-7 by the same Marquette squad the Irish defeated 21-9, the Irish may be hoping for a task relatively easier than the difficult stretch that saw the Irish play five ranked opponents in a row — the first four of which came on the road before the Irish hosted the No. 2 Tar Heels. The Irish went 1-4 during the span, but Halfpenny said she is pleased with where her team currently stands.

“I feel great about where we’re at,” Halfpenny said. “I’m excited about where we stand. There’s a lot up for grabs. We can prepare for going into battle in the postseason in these late games, and start battling for seeding in the national picture. I feel great about what we’re going to do. I’m excited about the development we’ve had. We’re learning our lessons now, we’re finding a little bit more maturity and a little bit more fire.

“At the end of the day, I hate to lose, even to learn lessons, but I think we’ve been learning a lot with this schedule we’ve played and I think it’s going to pay dividends if we allow it to.”

The Irish and the Owls will meet in Atlanta’s Fifth Third Bank Stadium on Thursday. 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