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Women’s Lacrosse: Showdown with No. 2 Northwestern awaits

Matthew DeFranks | Friday, February 18, 2011

Another early season game, another early season cupcake, right?

Think again. For the second time in their first three games, the Irish will face a team ranked in the top 15, this time matching up against 2010 national runner-up Northwestern.

The No. 2 Wildcats are a familiar foe for No. 10 Notre Dame, which has been knocked out of the NCAA tournament by Northwestern twice in the past three years. Overall, the Irish are 2-10 against the Wildcats, including a 15-5 season-ending loss last year.

Notre Dame, however, rebounded in the fall by beating the Wildcats.

“To be honest, I think that win in the fall was a turning point,” Irish coach Tracy Coyne said. “The lead changed hands a couple times and it was a really competitive game. We made some mistakes that allowed to game to be so back-and-forth and we’ll be looking to correct those.”

In the closing minutes of that game, senior defender Lauren Fenlon controlled a crucial draw while fellow senior defender Jackie Doherty drew a key charge to seal the victory.

“We love playing them, they’re our regional rivals,” Coyne said. “We looked at a lot of tape from that game, seeing things that we did well and things we can improve on.”

The Wildcats — the third Irish opponent to open its season against Notre Dame — return nine starters, including three All-Americans. Junior attack Shannon Smith, an early Player of the Year candidate, scored 69 goals last season while assisting on 33 others. For Northwestern, this is the first of five road games to open the season, four of which are against ranked opponents.

The Irish return home after splitting a pair of games in California, beating Cal 20-6 before falling to No. 13 Stanford 13-12 on Sunday. Junior midfielder Jenny Granger got off to a fast start, scoring six goals and adding two assists over the weekend. Freshman midfielder Kaitlyn Brosco started her college career in style, contributing four goals and an assist.

“Coming off the loss to Stanford, it would be huge to get the win,” Coyne said. “Playing those two early games was tough from a preparation standpoint. I need to have the team prepared as well as possible.”

Saturday’s game will be the home opener for the Irish, who will be playing indoors at Loftus Center instead of their usual home field, Arlotta Stadium.

“Arlotta Stadium is amazing, so obviously any time we get a chance, we want to play there, but we love the indoor facility too,” Coyne said. “It’s a little narrower but we’re used to it. We have great facilities here and we just love using them.”

The Irish open their home slate against the Wildcats on Saturday at 5 p.m.