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



Women’s Lacrosse: Notre Dame opens up critical homestand

Chris Allen | Friday, April 9, 2010

The No. 16 Irish open up the biggest home stand of the year this weekend, as they take on Villanova and No. 7 Syracuse at Arlotta Stadium in two critical Big East matchups.

Villanova (7-2) is in its first year in the conference, but the Irish are careful not to overlook the first year Big East foe.

“We don’t know a lot about them,” senior attack Gina Scioscia said. “But what we do know is that they are a bunch of really talented girls from the East Coast. They’re a team that loves to hustle.”

Senior midfielder Maggie Zentgraf said the game plan for Villanova has centered on how the Irish have played in recent games.

“Recently, we have played a lot of really close games,” Zentgraf said. “Basically, our mindset going in is that we can’t be satisfied with winning in that fashion. It’s not enough to win these games in the last six seconds. [Irish coach Tracy Coyne] is telling us that we should be blowing these teams out.”

The weekend will offer no respite to the players as they face off against the Orange (6-3) Sunday. The game will be a huge test for an Irish team that is looking to stay near the top of the Big East.

“They are a really great team,” Scioscia said. “We beat them last year in the Big East semifinals, so they will definitely be coming after us looking for a little revenge.”

Zentgraf believes Syracuse’s athleticism will call the Irish to rise to the challenge of keeping up with Syracuse players like Big East Player of the Year Christina Dove.

“Syracuse is so athletic and fun to play,” Zentgraf said. “We haven’t really begun to prepare for them strategically with Villanova in the forefront, but it’s always exciting to play a great team like that. We’re not looking past Villanova, but we’re definitely ready to go.”

The Irish (6-6) will have to contend with Dove, but the two seniors believe their defensive effort, centered around freshman goalie Ellie Hilling, will be more than ready.

“Ellie’s past three games have been amazing,” Zentgraf said. “She has basically carried us through some of these games.”

Besides Hilling, some of the other Irish youngsters have stepped up too and will need to continue their strong play down the final stretch of the season.

“[Freshman] Betsy Mastropieri has been huge,” Zentgraf said. “She was in and out in the beginning of the season, but the past few games she has really stepped up and she’s really converting.”

Zentgraf, Scioscia and the rest of the Irish will take the field at Arlotta Stadium Friday at 4:30 p.m. against Villanova and again at 1 p.m. Sunday against Syracuse.