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Women’s Lacrosse: Halfpenny shakes up style as new coach

Matthew DeFranks | Thursday, February 9, 2012

A year after the Irish missed the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2007, No. 20 Notre Dame aims to bounce back under new Irish coach Christine Halfpenny.

Halfpenny, who comes to Notre Dame after leading William & Mary’s program, said the transition has been a smooth one so far.

“It’s really been a wonderful preseason where I feel like our development has taken on a quicker uptake than I had anticipated coming off the fall,” Halfpenny said. “We had a really nice break. I think winter break was good for everybody to take a step away from all the work we had done.”

Halfpenny said the Irish will switch up styles on both offense and defense, a result of the new coaching staff on campus.

“We’ll play a very, very different style of defense,” Halfpenny said. “Offensively, we’re running some different looks too. It’ll be fun because the change has been welcomed by the girls.”

The Irish lost six starters to graduation, including two All-Americans in defender Jackie Doherty and midfielder Shaylyn Blaney. Halfpenny said replacing the former stars was tough in the fall, but has gotten easier this spring.

“In the fall, it was daunting for the team [to replace the past starters],” Halfpenny said. “Now that we’ve got through the fall, the kids grew up. The seniors became seniors.”

The Irish, however, do return preseason All-Big East selections senior attack Maggie Tamasitis and sophomore midfielder Kaitlyn Brosco. Tamasitis — who joins senior midfielders Jordy Shoemaker and Megan Sullivan as team captains — carries a 37-game point streak into this season.

“We’re going to be a little bit youthful on the field,” Halfpenny said. “We will be continuing to develop players during the season and during the course of a game. We’re excited about that because our leadership has really stepped up.”

The Irish open their season with an exhibition game against Johns Hopkins on Saturday in Baltimore.

“We’re very excited to finally play someone other than ourselves,” Halfpenny said. “We’re excited to see what we look like against someone that doesn’t know us. [Johns Hopkins] plays a very physical and aggressive game. They’re athletic. They finished off strong last year and they return quite a few players.”

While the game against the Blue Jays is marked as an exhibition, Halfpenny said they will play the match as though it is a real game.

“We’re going to play it as much as we can like a game and see where we’re at so we know what we need to fix before we host Stanford,” Halfpenny said.

The Irish play Johns Hopkins at 11 a.m. Saturday in Baltimore before opening their season Feb. 19 against Stanford at home.

Contact Matthew DeFranks at [email protected]