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Women’s Lacrosse: Irish lose in sudden death OT

Matt Gamber | Monday, April 28, 2008

No. 10 Notre Dame had dreamed all season of hoisting the Big East championship trophy on the turf of Notre Dame Stadium, but those dreams were dashed on Friday night as No. 7 Georgetown overcame an 8-1 deficit to win 15-14 in sudden death overtime.

In the first Notre Dame women’s varsity event to be held in the stadium, it was the Hoyas’ (12-5, 3-2 Big East) sophomore attack Molly Ford’s goal with 46 seconds to play in the third overtime that broke the hearts of the Irish (11-7, 4-1 Big East).

“It’s gut-wrenching because when you put your heart out there, our sports psychologist says it’s agony or ecstasy,” Irish senior captain Caitlin McKinney said. “I wouldn’t want it any other way, but right now, it’s agony because we put everything out there. That’s the hardest part, to walk off and know that you gave everything you can.

“It gives you peace, but it also tears you inside because you wish the ball would have bounced your way, and especially as a senior, it’s really difficult.”

The Irish started with a bang, scoring the game’s first six goals to take a 6-0 lead with just under 15 minutes to play in the first half. Freshman Shaylyn Blaney scored three of her career-high five goals over the stretch.

“It was just on the field, something comes over you,” Blaney said. “I’ve got a whole team in there that I feel like I’m playing for. I would do anything for these girls, and that sort of inspires me to just go.”

Georgetown finally got on the board with 14:25 to play in the first half, but Notre Dame scored twice over the next five minutes to grab an 8-1 lead. The teams traded goals before the momentum began to swing in Georgetown’s favor, as the Hoyas, down 9-2, began a 6-1 run that would cover the last five minutes of the first half and the first five of the second.

Hoyas midfielder Ashby Kaestner scored all four of her goals over that stretch, transforming a 9-2 game with 7:31 to play in the first half into a 10-8 battle less than four minutes into the second.

“When they started getting possession off the draw, then Kaestner, their best player, stepped up and started killing us at the end of the first half,” Irish coach Tracy Coyne said. “I think we tried to take her out of the mix and face-guard her off the draw, I mean we were definitely trying things, but they’re a good team. We’re not two top-10 teams for no reason.”

Georgetown would tie the game at 11-11 on Allie Hubschmann’s third goal of the game at 18:51 and take a 13-12 lead, their first of the contest, with just over four minutes to play. McKinney’s third goal tied it at 13-13 with 1:17 to go, and the game entered overtime after the Hoyas, stalling for the final shot, were unable to convert.

Eight seconds into the first of two three-minute, non-sudden death overtimes, sophomore attack Gina Scioscia gave the Irish a 14-13 lead off an assist from McKinney. But Georgetown’s Jordy Kirr tied it right back up 15 seconds later on an unassisted goal.

Both teams were held scoreless over the second non-sudden death overtime and the first of the two sudden death periods, though both had several chances to put the game away.

“We had opportunities to win the game in regulation, and we had our chances,” Coyne said. “We just didn’t capitalize, and when you get to sudden death, it’s a funny bounce that’s going to end up winning it – it is what it is, but it’s unfortunate that we’re on the losing end.”

Notre Dame’s best chance came when McKinney, running down the field after a draw, had her bid for the game-winner stuffed by Georgetown goalie Caitlin Formby. With the ball on the ground just in front of the net, McKinney opted to try to flick the ball in with her stick, as she had done successfully earlier in the contest, instead of picking it up and shooting normally.

“I got too excited and I should’ve just picked it up and put it in,” McKinney said.

I was back and forth between flicking it and picking it up, and I should’ve had more confidence and composure. It could’ve changed the game but I guess that’s how it goes sometimes.”

The Hoyas dominated the possession in sudden death, and even when the Irish managed to pry the ball loose, they were plagued by untimely turnovers, including two in the decisive overtime period.

“I want the team to play to win, so I don’t really question some of the decisions they were making because I want them to go with their gut,” Coyne said. “If they think they can take it and make something happen, I don’t want to take that away from them by forcing them into something. We have our set plays, but at the end of the day, you want the players out there pulling the trigger and playing to win. Maybe we lived and died by it.”

The Irish players were visibly distraught by the loss, both on the field and in the locker room following the game. But they will have to regroup for their final regular season game, at home against Cornell on May 3, in order to have any chance at an at-large bid into the NCAA tournament.

“There aren’t really words that are going to give them consolation right now,” Coyne said. “They wanted to be in the championship game, and we wanted to be representing Notre Dame and winning our first Big East title. It’s a really difficult position we’re in right now.”