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Women’s Lacrosse: Irish open season at Dartmouth

Michael Bryan | Friday, February 9, 2007

At the beginning of last season, Notre Dame was picking up the pieces from a 3-12 year. This season, though, the Irish are preseason No. 5 nationally.

What a difference a year makes.

The Irish surprised the lacrosse world last season with a 15-4 record and trip to the NCAA semifinals. So it’s easy to see why they aren’t sneaking up on anyone in 2007.

The Irish open their season Saturday, traveling to face No. 6 Dartmouth in an exhibition match. Although it is preseason, the game will carry a little extra meaning.

Dartmouth, the last team Notre Dame faced last season, eliminated the Irish in the NCAA semifinals 14-8.

“Facing Dartmouth again will definitely be extra motivation for the team,” Irish coach Tracy Coyne said. “We’re really excited to go against someone new after weeks of scrimmaging against ourselves, and this game will be a good gauge of what is working and what needs change.”

Facing the highly ranked Big Green squad will help prepare the Irish for a very difficult schedule, featuring seven teams ranked in the preseason top 20. Senior Meghan Murphy said the team enjoys the challenge.

“We would have it no other way,” Murphy said. “We know we need to be tested and challenged throughout the season to fine-tune our skills and strategies.”

The team will be led by a talented group of returning starters, including three members of the preseason All-Big East team. Junior midfield/attack Caitlin McKinney and sophomore midfield/attack Jillian Byers were unanimous selections to the team, joined by senior defender Meaghan Fitzpatrick.

While outside expectations for the Irish are very high this season, the team’s expectations may be higher still.

“It’s not about just getting to the NCAA semis anymore,” senior midfielder Lena Zentgraf said. “It’s about winning the next two games for the championship.”

Notre Dame’s other main goal this season will be winning the inaugural Big East tournament.

“We’re tired of finishing runner-up – we want to win the Big East and take our place among the other elite teams at Notre Dame,” Coyne said. “This is absolutely the most talented and experienced team I’ve ever coached, and the Big East and national championships are our ultimate goals.”