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ND Women’s Lacrosse: Irish take on pair of foes at home

Michael Bryan | Friday, March 30, 2007

Notre Dame hopes to continue its strong defensive play over the weekend with home matches against No. 20 Connecticut and Duquesne.The No. 12 Irish (7-2, 1-1 Big East) will face off against the Huskies (5-2, 0-1) tonight at 7. Notre Dame, who defeated Connecticut 13-9 last season, will face a much improved team from last year’s 5-11 squad that went winless in the Big East. The Huskies’ only two losses this season have come to ranked opponents, and the team has posted wins over Harvard, Stanford and California. Connecticut’s last match was a heartbreaking loss to No. 11 Syracuse, falling 18-16 in double overtime. Irish coach Tracy Coyne said she wasn’t surprised by the Huskies’ success this season.”We scrimmaged them in the fall, and knew they had the talent and ability,” Coyne said. “Last season things just didn’t go their way, and this year they’ve started strong.”This season the Huskies are led by junior Shannon Burke, whose 39 goals as a sophomore made her a first-team All-Big East selection. The attacker leads Connecticut with 45 points – double the number of any of her teammates.Burke will be the biggest challenge to a stingy Irish defense coming off an 11-1 win over Loyola. Goalkeeper Erin Goodman and the defense set a Notre Dame record in that game for fewest goals allowed.Goodman, in her first season as starting goalkeeper, has elevated her play after giving up 18 goals against defending NCAA champion Northwestern. Since that loss the sophomore is 5-1 with an 8.33 goals against average and a .550 save percentage.”The defense is playing with a lot of confidence right now,” Coyne said. “We’ve put up defensive pressure and forced opponents to take low percentage shots, and when they’ve gotten good shots off Erin has been amazing.”After the Big East showdown on Friday, the Irish will host another match Sunday at 1 against non-conference foe Duquesne. The Dukes (4-3) bring a high powered offense that comes into the game averaging 13.3 goals per contest.Duquesne will play Denver today before heading to South Bend to face the Irish Sunday. The Dukes will try and imitate the play from their last match, an 18-4 thumping of Howard on the road.Sophomore Kathleen McNish leads Duquesne with 38 points on 19 goals and 19 assists. Freshman goalie Caitlin Carducci has struggled to start her career, letting up an average of 11.46 goals per game. However, the freshman has learned from experience, improving her goals against average to eight per game over the last three matches.”I think Duquesne will come out aggressively and try to challenge us – they’re on the road and looking to make a statement,” Coyne said.While Notre Dame has put up impressive showings on both offense and defense this season, Coyne said she is still waiting for the team to dominate on both ends.”We’ve had dominant offensive games and really good defensive games, but we’re still waiting to put everything together and have the perfect game,” she said.