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Women’s Lacrosse: Byers, Irish down Huskies

Joe Meixell | Monday, April 3, 2006

Since the first moment Jillian Byers stepped on a lacrosse field for Notre Dame, she’s felt at home.

Byers set the Notre Dame freshman scoring record Saturday with her 45th point of the season as the Irish beat Connecticut 13-9 in Storrs, Conn.

Netting three goals and an assist, Byers increased her season totals to 33 goals and 12 assists. With six games left, she is just five goals shy of Courtney Calabrese’s program record of 38 goals as a freshman.

“I guess it’s pretty cool,” Byers said. “This year we have a great team, and they’re the reason for my success. We have so many great players – [senior midfielder] Crysti [Foote], [sophomore attack] Caitlin McKinney, [junior attack] Meghan [Murphy] – who have helped me reach this goal.”

In the Big East battle, the Notre Dame’s high-powered offense proved too powerful for the Huskies.

Foote led the team with five goals and four assists for a total of nine points, unloading on the Huskies after being held to only one point against Canisius on March 25.

“I think the match-up against Canisius was an opportunity for our team as a whole to contribute and gave each player confidence,” Foote said. “Some games, you just get into the zone. It feels good though to play well after coming off a low-scoring game.”

Notre Dame is averaging 15.8 goals per game in its 10 contests this season.

Saturday’s first half was marked by competitive play from both offenses. McKinney spearheaded the Irish offensive press with the first goal of the match. UConn attacks Abbey VanDeusen and Kristin Link traded goals with the Irish early in the first half, but the Notre Dame offense continued to mesh, taking a 7-4 lead into the half after freshman midfielder Jane Stoeckert netted her seventh goal of the season with 1:25 left before the break.

To start the second half, VanDeusen threatened the moderate Irish lead with an early goal, but Notre Dame responded with an offensive volley.

Byers, Foote and McKinney combined for six second-half goals and secured Notre Dame the 13-9 victory.

A key aspect of the team’s success was the defensive shutdown of Connecticut midfielder Shannon Burke. Burke’s presence was a major factor in both of UConn’s wins this season. The former Big East Player of the Week was held to just two points in the contest.

The win against Connecticut gives the No. 10 Irish a 9-1 record overall and a 2-0 record in the Big East.

Notre Dame’s final six games include a daunting stretch against the elite lacrosse programs of Duke, Georgetown, Syracuse and Vanderbilt.

“We must continue to hustle and work hard each day in practice,” Foote said. “Right now, we’re just going to play to the best of our abilities and play every game one at a time.”