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Women’s Lacrosse: ND rides strong second half to win over Dukes

Cory Bernard | Monday, February 28, 2011

After a sluggish first half on Sunday, the Irish found their offense in the second frame and rallied past a determined Duquesne squad.

Trailing 7-4 at halftime, No. 10/11 Notre Dame finished strong for the 12-10 victory in snowy Pittsburgh. Originally scheduled for Saturday, the game was pushed back due to inclement weather. The delay seemed to affect the Irish early, as they struggled to find the net against a Dukes team that was content to keep the game at a slow pace.

“They were outplaying us and we just weren’t smooth offensively in the first half,” Irish coach Tracy Coyne said.

“The great teams find a way to win, though. In general we weren’t on our ‘A’ game, but we gutted it out.”

With the excitement of playing at home against a nationally ranked foe, Duquesne possessed an energy that the Irish didn’t seem to match until the second half. However, some halftime adjustments from the coaches allowed the game to played more on Notre Dame’s terms.

“Their goalie was just holding the ball, so we had to make some changes,” Coyne said. “We adjusted our transition defense in the second half to force them to do some things.”

The Dukes used a style of play designed to limit the transition attack of Notre Dame. Coyne was quick to praise the efforts of her counterpart Michael Scerbo as his game plan worked well for the first half.

“It was a real slow-down game,” she said. “They weren’t trying to beat us in transition. They were well coached. They are very organized, with a good system and a staff that’s been there a while.”

The Dukes took an 8-5 lead early in the second half, but the Irish responded with four straight goals. Notre Dame took a 9-8 lead on a goal from senior midfielder Shaylyn Blaney with just over 21 minutes to play. Blaney finished the game with three goals. The Dukes tied the game at 9 with 13:38 to play, but senior midfielder Kaitlin Keena gave the Irish a lead they wouldn’t relinquish three minutes later off an assist from Blaney.

Although the Irish eventually prevailed, Coyne said the Irish would likely see this slow-down tactic more often this season. Coyne says that her squad’s athleticism causes opponents to prepare for the Irish using a more deliberate approach to attacking.

“Tactically, people are trying to take us out of our game,” she said. “They know they can’t necessarily beat us with athleticism, so they slow the game down.”

In addition to the planning and execution of Duquesne, the week of practice leading up to Sunday’s game may have prevented the Irish from starting quickly out of the gates. Coyne said the absence of many players from full practice prevented the team from running their usual rotations.

“We kind of took it easy in practice this week,” Coyne said. “We had a lot of people not practicing so there were some odd number combinations.”

Notre Dame has the week off before hosting Ohio State March 10 at Arlotta Stadium, weather permitting.