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Women’s Lacrosse: Beaten by the best

Jack Hefferon | Thursday, April 26, 2012

After climbing near the top of college lacrosse rankings with four straight wins, No. 6 Notre Dame looked to challenge for the peak in its game against No. 1 Northwestern on Wednesday. The Irish were unable to knock the Wildcats off their throne, losing to the perennial powerhouse, 17-7.

Notre Dame (12-3, 5-2 Big East) actually jumped out to 1-0 lead when sophomore attack Lindsay Powell scored the first of her team-leading three goals, but Northwestern (15-1, 4-1 American) would quickly respond. The Wildcats, who have won six of the last seven national championships, found their form through the play of junior attack Erin Fitzgerald and jumped back into control. Powered by Fitzgerald’s four first-half goals, Northwestern took a 12-3 lead into halftime.

The game could have been even further out of reach if not for the outstanding play of Irish junior goaltender Ellie Hilling. Hilling made seven saves in the first half – several from point-blank range – to keep the Wildcats within striking distance.

Hilling, who had a few former teammates from Brighton High School in Rochester, N.Y., in the Northwestern lineup, said she had mixed feelings about the prospect of shutting down her friends.

“I think it kind of hurts me a little bit,” Hilling said. “Instead of just playing like they’re anyone else, I have in the back of my head that I know them and I don’t want them to score on me. So, instead of just reacting, I’m thinking ‘[Shoot], I don’t want them to score on me.'”

Northwestern continued to bring its ‘A’ game in the second half and further built up its lead behind the play of senior attack Shannon Smith. Smith, the defending Tewaaraton Award winner, led all scorers with five points on the evening, and kept the high-flying Wildcat offense in gear as they cruised to the 10-goal win.

While the loss was certainly a disappointment to Notre Dame, Irish coach Christine Halfpenny said before the game her team was fortunate to get a tune-up against such an elite team before the postseason begins.

“We know darn well that [if] you see them in the regular season, you’re pretty lucky,” she said. “A lot of people have to go through them to win a national title.”

The Irish will return to action at home this weekend against Cincinnati. The team will honor its seniors at that game, including attack Maggie Tamasitis, who was selected as a nominee for the Tewaaraton Award before Wednesday’s game.

In a possible Tewaaraton jinx, Tamasitis was kept off the scoresheet Wednesday for the first time since her freshman year, ending a 51-game scoring streak. Tamasitis was one game shy of breaking the school record, held by former Irish midfielder Caitlin McKinney, but now the two will share the honor.

Tamasitis’s achievements will be honored Saturday, along with those of her seven fellow seniors. The game will take place at Arlotta Stadium and begins at noon.

Contact Jack Hefferon at [email protected]