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Women’s Lacrosse: Talented group hopes to nab school’s first Big East title

Joe Meixell | Thursday, April 23, 2009

They may have some of the most successful players Notre Dame has ever seen, but the No. 11 Irish have yet to make it past the first round of the Big East tournament, a record they will try to amend tonight as they take on No. 8 Syracuse.

“Syracuse is a very potent team, but defensively we know their tendencies,” Irish coach Tracy Coyne said. “We’re confident we can be in the game from the beginning, if we play relaxed and get through the first few minutes.”

This weekend marks Notre Dame’s third consecutive appearance in the Big East tournament since its inception in 2007, when the team lost 12-10 to the Hoyas after trailing 11-6 with 14 minutes to play. Last season’s tournament, held in Notre Dame Stadium, saw history repeat itself as the Hoyas defeated the Irish in sudden death 15-14 after three overtimes.

Not only is Notre Dame looking to improve its tournament record, but also its record against Syracuse. The Irish (12-4, 5-2 Big East) last faced the Orange (12-3, 6-1) April 11 at the Carrier Dome, where they lost 14-13. Overall, they are 3-9 versus the Orange, losing their last three contests against them.

If they advance to the second round, Notre Dame will take on the winner of the second semi-final contest between Georgetown and Louisville on Sunday at 1 p.m.

What the Irish do have going into this tournament are some of the top players in the conference and in Notre Dame history for both offense and defense, including several who were recognized at Thursday’s Big East awards banquet, which precedes the tournament.

Senior attack Jillian Byers is the all-time Big East goal leader and a Tewaarton Trophy nominee. She was named All-Big East co-attack of the year, along with Syracuse’s Katie Roan.

Byers, senior defender Shannon Burke and sophomore midfielder Shaylyn Blaney were all named to the first-team All-Big East.

Junior attack Gina Scioscia, the conference’s third highest goal-scorer, was named to the second team.

“The league’s really competitive, with three teams in the top ten nationally and this is a pretty competitive week, so any recognition that the players receive is awesome,” Coyne said.

Overall, the Irish offense has averaged 15.81 points per game to put them at the top for the Big East and fifth in the nation.

On the defensive end, this year’s team has one the of the best all-around defenders Notre Dame has seen in Burke and Notre Dame’s all-time winningest goalkeeper in senior Erin Goodman. Burke leads the team with 45 ground balls and 28 caused turnovers and is fifth with 26 draw controls. Goodman has started in 52 consecutive games for the Irish with a .673 winning percentage off her record of 35-17.

“Everyone here [at the tournament] wants to win, and is playing to win,” Coyne said. “We’re confident in our game plan.”

Hoping to put their leading talents to use tonight, the Irish start their tournament run for their first Big East title tonight against the Orange at 5:30 p.m. in Georgetown’s Multi-Sport Facility.