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Irish win opener in sudden death

Joe Meixell | Monday, February 19, 2007

A clutch performance by No. 5 Notre Dame gave the Irish a 10-9 overtime victory on the road against No. 12 James Madison in the first game of the regular season.

With 16 seconds remaining in sudden death, senior Lena Zentgraf assisted sophomore Jill Byers for the game-winning goal, the sixth of the game for Byers.

The Irish trailed most of game and were just 19 seconds from defeat when junior Caitlin McKinney netted an unassisted goal to tie the game at the end of regulation. The Dukes took a 9-7 lead in the opening half of the six-minute overtime period after two goals by senior Kelly Berger.

Notre Dame responded quickly in the second half of overtime with an early goal by sophomore Jillian Byers. Then, with just nine seconds left in overtime, McKinney scored another clutch goal to tie the game at 9-9 and advance to sudden-death.

Both teams played strong defense in the sudden-death overtime, and once again the Irish showed their flair for the dramatic in sudden death.

Notre Dame was led by Byers’ six goals and McKinney’s two clutch goals. Senior Meghan Murphy also added two goals in the winning effort.

Berger led the Dukes with five goals, and junior Natasha Fuchs contributed a strong performance with two goals.

Irish coach Tracy Coyne said the team was confident it could pull through despite the late deficit.

“We have total confidence in our preparation, mental training and fitness,” Coyne said. “Even in tight games we feel like we’ll win because of our experience and training.”

The opening game for both teams was moved from James Madison’s home field in Harrisonburg, Va., to the University of Virginia’s field in Charlottesville, Va., after a winter storm created unplayable conditions at the Dukes’ facility.

“I think this game gave us a lot of momentum,” Coyne said. “To win a close one like that against a worthy opponent, in that kind of adversity just shows what our team is made of.”

The Irish posted a 35-25 advantage on shots over the Dukes. Notre Dame sophomore goalkeeper Erin Goodman recorded four saves, and James Madison goalie Kelly Wetzel finished with seventeen.

Notre Dame will next face No. 16 Stanford in its home opener Saturday. The Cardinal are 1-1 after dropping their opener to Oregon and defeating St. Mary’s (Calif.) 22-6 Saturday.