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Women’s Lacrosse: ND plays in first Big East tourney

Michael Bryan | Friday, April 27, 2007

For the first time in its history, Notre Dame will play in a conference tournament.

No. 12 Notre Dame enters the inaugural Big East championship today, facing top-seeded Georgetown in the first round. The No. 4-seed Irish will look to defeat the Hoyas for the second time this season and pick up their first-ever win at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse.

The Irish (11-5, 3-2 Big East) won the regular season match against the Hoyas (9-6, 4-1) in a historic match at Moose Krause Stadium. In the April 14 game, Notre Dame became the first team to defeat Georgetown in Big East play with the 13-8 win. The Hoyas had won 37 straight Big East contests dating back seven seasons, when the conference added women’s lacrosse.

While Notre Dame is the lowest seed in the tournament, Irish coach Tracy Coyne said her team is very confident.

“We’re not intimidated by anyone,” Coyne said. “We’ve beaten Georgetown once this season and played Syracuse and Rutgers very close. We know we can play with anyone.”

The Irish will focus on containing Georgetown star and Big East player of the year Coco Stanwick. The senior attack – who scored just one goal and one assist in the first Notre Dame match – led the Big East with 74 points on the year.

The Hoyas’ success has largely hinged on their defense this season, led by senior Maggie Koch, Big East defensive player of the year. Georgetown led the Big East defensively, giving up only 7.03 goals per game in conference play.

Coyne said Notre Dame has been looking forward to this tournament for a long time.

“From the beginning of the year, winning the Big East championship has always been one of our biggest goals,” Coyne said. “We feel very ready and prepared going into the tournament.”

The Irish finished the regular season with 11 wins and only five losses, all to ranked teams. Facing one of the toughest schedules in the nation, Notre Dame was 6-5 against ranked opponents.

Sophomore Jillian Byers led Notre Dame and the Big East with 55 goals on the season, and her production will be key to the Irish’s tournament success. Junior Caitlin McKinney was second on the Irish with 60 points off 39 goals and 21 assists, and has led the team in assists all season.

McKinney and Byers were both named unanimous all-Big East selections, and senior defender Meaghan Fitzpatrick also was named to the first team. Seniors Kaki Orr and Lena Zentgraf were selected to the second team.

The winner of the Georgetown-Notre Dame game will advance to the Big East championship game to face either No. 3-seed Rutgers or No. 2-seed Syracuse. The Irish dropped contests to both teams in close matches in the regular season, falling at Syracuse 16-13 in overtime and at home against the Scarlet Knights 8-7.