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Women’s Lacrosse: Squad ousts top ranked Blue Devils

Joe Meixell | Friday, April 4, 2008

The Notre Dame and Duke women’s lacrosse teams entered Thursday’s game heading in different directions, with the Irish having won 5 of 6 and with Duke riding a 2-game losing streak. Thanks to arguably their best performance of the year, the Irish were able to keep their momentum going and keep Duke stuck in neutral – defeating the seventh-ranked Blue Devils by a score of 12-8. The win was Notre Dame’s first over a top 10 opponent this season.

“We were able to dominate them from start to finish,” said Irish coach Tracy Coyne. “It was an awesome all-around team performance.”

She mentioned strong showings from players from all over the field, noting the play of junior goalkeeper Erin Goodman and the all around play of senior midfielder Caitlin McKinney.

Duke opened the scoring in the game, running out to a 1-0 lead just 33 seconds into the game. However, the Irish were quick to respond, scoring the next five goals in the game and taking a lead that they would never relinquish. Notre Dame went into the half with a 7-3 lead.

“We had a solid game plan and we executed it to a tee,” said Coyne. “And when we came out with adjustments, we handled those as well.” It was evident, as the strong play continued into the second half. The teams traded goals until, with an 11-8 lead, junior attack Jillian Byers scored with 1:58 left, dealing the proverbial nail in the coffin. Byers has been a consistent scoring threat all season long, but was quick to deflect the spotlight onto her teammates as well.

“We have a lot of young guns who are stepping up,” Byers said. “I definitely don’t do it by myself.”

Also crucial in the victory was the ability to shut down the Blue Devils’ top scoring threat, Carolyn Davis. The junior attempted 10 shots, but only found the net once, and was hounded by the Irish defense all game long.

The win marked the first time the Irish have ever won in Durham, N.C. – they were previously 0-5 – and only the second time they have defeated the Blue Devils in school history. More significantly, the win solidifies Notre Dame’s spot among the game’s elite.

“This game shows that we can beat a top 10 team,” said Coyne. “Not just play with them, but actually beat them.”

Additionally, the win was a crucial first step in a grueling three-game stretch in which the Irish will travel to top-ranked Northwestern and will visit Big East leader Georgetown. Coyne thinks the team now has the mental makeup to make some noise late in the season as they push for a Big East championship and, eventually, a run at the National Championship.

“Obviously this win gives us a lot of confidence,” said Coyne.

Armed with confidence, the Irish will take on No. 1 Northwestern in Evanston, Ill. on Thursday at 7 p.m.