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WOMEN’S LACROSSE: Irish prepare to take on ‘Cats

Matt Puglisi | Thursday, March 3, 2005

Revenge is a dish best served cold.No. 20 Notre Dame’s opportunity to avenge last year’s season-ending NCAA tournament first round 10-8 loss to No. 3 Northwestern (3-0) comes relatively quickly. The Irish have only played one regular-season game since the heartbreaking defeat. Notre Dame (1-0) will take the revenge in whatever form it can get it – cold, hot or in between. The Irish will have that chance this afternoon when the red-hot Wildcats visit the Loftus Center at 4:30 pm.Coach Tracy Coyne expects the showdown to produce the high-level of emotion typically reserved for season-end, elimination contests and not the second game of the year.”As early as it is in the season, I think there’s going to be a playoff type atmosphere to the game,” Coyne said. “Several months have passed since we’ve played them, but I still think there are a lot of feelings about how [the playoff game last May] went that are going to be evident in this game.”Building a 6-4 advantage by the end of the first half in the NCAA tournament first round match-up, the Irish were unable to hold off the Wildcats as Northwestern rallied to net five of the second half’s first six goals en route to the victory.The playoff loss wasn’t the first time last season that Northwestern rained on Notre Dame’s parade – the Wildcats also handed the Irish the second of four consecutive losses after Notre Dame started last season by reeling off 10 straight victories.The pair of close, hard-fought contests between the two talented squads has fueled a growing tension between the teams. “I think we definitely feel a rivalry towards Northwestern – one of those competitive games that you look forward to,” Coyne said. “We have respect for them and what they’ve done over the past couple of years. We’re just looking forward to playing them.”The Irish enter today’s game on the heels of a season opening 16-10 stomping of Ohio University in Athens, Ohio last Sunday.Paced by attack Crysti Foote’s career-high eight points (five goals, three assists) and a pair of four-goal performances from sophomore midfielder Meghan Murphy and freshman midfielder Caitlin McKinney, the Irish scored early and often in the victory.After jumping out to a quick 4-0 lead, Notre Dame allowed the Bobcats to get back into the contest before a pair of goal-scoring bursts finished off host Ohio. While Foote’s career-best performance was instrumental in the win, Coyne pointed to the play of Murphy and McKinney as particularly important, yet not surprising.”From what we were seeing in practice, [I expected the high goal output],” Coyne said. “I was very pleased that Meghan and Caitlin both had four goals each – I think that was a good way for the season to start off.”After rallying from a 5-2 halftime deficit to top then-No. 6 North Carolina Feb. 20, Northwestern trounced both Oregon and Denver 21-2 and 20-9, respectively, in its two most recent games this past weekend.Following the home face-off with the Wildcats, the Irish hit the road for a three-game spring break trip down the East Coast, where they will lock horns with Cornell, Vanderbilt and James Madison.Notes:uTwo Notre Dame players took home conference awards this week for their play in last weekend’s 16-10 victory over Ohio University. Foote was named Big East Offensive Player of the Week for her career-best eight point game (five goals, three assists) while midfielder Jess Mikula was pegged as the Big East Defensive Player of the Week. Mikula recorded two ground balls and five draw controls while causing a trio of turnovers in her team’s victory over the Bobcats.