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ND Women’s Lacrosse: Notre Dame seniors shine

Matt DeFranks | Tuesday, February 15, 2011

In the Big East, talent is prevalent but experience is golden.

This year, Notre Dame’s seniors have both.

The six returning seniors and one graduate student — midfielders Kailene Abt, Shaylyn Blaney, Kaitlin Keena, defenders Jackie Doherty, Lauren Fenlon and attacks Ansley Stewart and Meredith Locasto — have arguably been one of the most successful classes in Irish history.

The Class of 2011 made history when they won the Big East Championship in 2009 and 2010, becoming the first team in program history to make the NCAA Tournament three consecutive seasons.

Just six years ago, the Irish finished 3-12. In the last three years, however, Notre Dame has won nearly 70 percent of its games and these seven players are a big reason why.

“Obviously, they have gotten better but their biggest development has been their mentality,” Irish coach Tracy Coyne said. “What makes this group special is that they have individually different skill sets.”

Since Abt, Blaney, Keena, Doherty, Stewart and Locasto have joined the team, the Irish have won 39 of 58 games. These seniors have combined for 326 career appearances, 316 goals, 95 assists and 413 ground balls. Over the last three years, they have accounted for 41 percent of the team’s goals and 37 percent of the team’s ground balls.

“The seniors came up with the motto: ‘Whatever it Takes’ and I think it’s fitting,” Coyne said. “They are willing to do whatever it takes to win.”

This batch of seniors is led by the All-Americans Blaney and Doherty — two of the 13 All-Americans in program history — and is supported by All-Big East performer Abt.

During No. 10 Notre Dame’s two-game west coast split with Cal and No. 14 Stanford over the weekend, Blaney contributed two goals and three assists while Abt added two goals and an assist. Doherty, meanwhile, controlled six draws and scooped up six ground balls.

In the fall, against Saturday’s opponent Northwestern, the Irish were able to break through against the Wildcats for a big win, and the seniors had a lot to do with that. Fenlon had a crucial draw control and Doherty drew a charge late to seal the game for Notre Dame.

Despite advancing to the NCAA Tournament for the last three years, the Irish are just 1-3 with two losses to Northwestern. Coyne, however, said she is confident her seniors can lead the team, much like past senior classes have.

This year’s class reminds Coyne of both the senior classes on the 2002 squad that made the program’s first NCAA Tournament appearance and the 2004 team that garnered the Irish’s highest national ranking.

“They have the attitude, skill and commitment to get it done. They set high goals for themselves and I have high standards for them.” Coyne said. “They have the opportunity to be the first group to have four NCAA Tournament appearances and two Big East titles.”

If they do, they’ll accomplish the lofty goals they have set for themselves and the team.