The Observer is a Student-run, daily print & online newspaper serving Notre Dame & Saint Mary's. Learn more about us.



Women’s Lacrosse: ND hits West Coast for three big contests

Matt Gamber | Thursday, February 28, 2008

No. 11 Notre Dame won’t get much of a break while classes aren’t in session next week, but don’t feel too sorry for them – the Irish get to take a trip to California.

The Irish (3-0) will play at Stanford in Palo Alto, Calif., on Sunday before flying to San Diego to take on Oregon as a part of the annual East-West Challenge. Notre Dame’s spring break action will conclude with a game against California in Pasadena, Calif.

The West-Coast trip will give the Irish exposure not only to the California sun, but also to a wider audience. The Stanford game will be broadcast on CSTV.com, while Notre Dame’s match-up with California will be played in the historic Rose Bowl.

“It’s a really important road swing because we’re playing three Pac-10 teams, and I think playing three games in a week is going to be challenging for us,” Irish coach Tracy Coyne said. “Plus playing Thursday night and Saturday too, it’s going to be a good test to see where we are.”

Notre Dame began its road schedule with a 14-11 victory Sunday over Ohio State. The Irish saw a healthy advantage quickly dissolve late in the second half, and while they were able to hold off the Buckeyes, Coyne hasn’t forgotten what she saw.

“There were definitely things in that game exposed some of our weaknesses, and we’ve been addressing those in practice,” Coyne said. “We’ve been putting some extra pressure on our defenders to bring the ball out of the defensive unit, but I think in preparing for Stanford, because they have one of the best goalies in the country, we’re going to have to focus on doing some things differently on the offensive side as well.”

The Irish have gotten the production they expected from a pair of preseason All-Big East picks in senior captain Caitlin McKinney, whose 42-game point streak is a school record, and junior attack Jillian Byers, who leads the team with 15 goals through three games.

But what has given Notre Dame the opportunity to achieve its early season success, Coyne said, are the contributions of some of the team’s younger players – including thsoe by freshmen Shaylyn Bailey (10 goals, three assists) and Kaitlin Keena (four goals, four assists).

“The freshmen have obviously been great, and I think it’s our sophomores, too, because we have three in Gina Scioscia, Rachel Guerrera and Maggie Zentgraf who are getting a lot of minutes,” Coyne said. “The leadership of the juniors and seniors with a combination of the youth movement is giving us some good looks and some different things we can do. Tactically, even in the Ohio State game, we were trying some different things, so it’s exciting.”