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Women’s Lacrosse: Irish open with Duquesne

Meaghan Veselik | Friday, February 13, 2009

Notre Dame looks to start its season off with a win Saturday as the team travels to Pittsburgh to take on the Duquesne Dukes. The Irish have had no problem with The Dukes in the past, winning both of their two previous meetings 16-4.

Notre Dame starts the year ranked No. 11 in both the WLCA coaches’ preseason poll and the Inside Lacrosse poll. They finished last season at 12-7 (4-1) Big East, falling in the first round of the NCAA tournament to four-time defending champions Northwestern. Notre Dame has advanced to the NCAA tournament four times in the last seven years.

Leading the Irish this season are Irish coach Tracy Coyne, entering her 13th season with the Irish, and the team’s new captains, seniors Shannon Burke and Jillian Byers.

“They have the respect of their peers and the full confidence of the coaching staff to lead the team this season,” Coyne said in a press release earlier this week.

Burke has started at midfield/defense her last two seasons, contributing both offensively and defensively for the Irish in her third season. She had career highs in goals (8), assists (3), and points (11). On defense she led the team in turnovers (32) and was second on the team for ground balls (33) and draw controls (52).

Burke was also chosen as a selection on the second team IWLCA all-West/Midwest regional team, and a Big East defensive player of the week, finishing fourth in the conference with 1.56 caused turnovers per game last season. Burke was also recently chosen as a selection on the preseason all-Big East team.

Byers has been a key force in the Notre Dame attack in each of her first three seasons. She wrapped up her junior season with a team-high 67 goals and 81 points, and a school record-setting 52 draw controls.

“Jill and Shannon possess many of the attributes that good leaders must have – a positive attitude, a great work ethic and outstanding communication skills,” Coyne said.

Byers is first all-time in goals (179), third in points (225) and seventh in assists (46) at Notre Dame, as well as the only Notre Dame player to score more than 50 goals in three seasons and 66 or more points in three consecutive seasons. She has been a selection on the all-IWLCA second team and a unanimous selection on the first team all-Big East each of her past three seasons. Along with Burke and fellow teammate Shaylyn Blaney, Byers was selected to the all-Big East preseason team this season.

The team will have its first chance to live up to the preseason hype on Saturday in Pittsburgh.