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ND Softball: ND faces young Marquette

Brian Hartnett | Friday, April 26, 2013


With its postseason status still up in the air, No. 10 Notre Dame will close out its regular season against Marquette on Saturday at Arlotta Stadium.

The Irish (11-4, 5-3 BIG EAST) have dropped their last three games, falling to No. 5 Syracuse and No. 16 Connecticut over the weekend and No. 4 Northwestern on Wednesday night. 

Despite Notre Dame’s recent struggles, Irish coach Christine Halfpenny said she was impressed with the way her team battled back against the perennially strong Wildcats (14-2, 4-1 American Lacrosse Conference) on Wednesday. Down 9-4 with 22 minutes to go, Notre Dame scored four of the game’s last five goals to cut the final deficit to two.

“I’m actually really proud of my team’s effort [Wednesday] night and our will to compete,” Halfpenny said. “Winning the draw battle against a team that’s very good at the draw was a huge thing for us and being able to cause 12 turnovers against a really good, championship-caliber team [makes] us pretty excited about what we need to do.”

Going forward, the Irish need to work on continuing to generate offensive opportunities, win draw controls and limit turnovers, Halfpenny said.

“We really want to build off those scoring opportunities, working for the best scoring opportunities against Marquette,” she said. “[We want to continue] on our amazing tenacity on the draw and limit our turnovers, which is going to be a key for this young team.”

Notre Dame will look to put these objectives into practice Saturday when it hosts Marquette (2-14).

The Golden Eagles have struggled in their inaugural season of lacrosse, losing their last 12 contests and averaging only 6.25 goals per game. Still, Halfpenny said Marquette has much potential and will be looking to cap off its first season with a signature win.

“The beauty about the youthfulness of Marquette’s team is their naïve bliss, and they’re going to go for [a win],” Halfpenny said. “We have no doubt in our mind that they want to finish this inaugural season the way they want to start next season, so [Saturday’s game] is the best opportunity for a huge statement for them.”

As regular season play comes to an end, Notre Dame is unsure of what its next step will be. Sitting at 5-3 in the conference, the Irish will only make next week’s four-team Big East tournament if they win Saturday and No. 7 Georgetown loses both of its games this weekend. The Hoyas (11-3, 5-1) will play Connecticut (13-1, 5-1) today and Syracuse (12-3, 6-0) on Sunday.

With an RPI of 10, Notre Dame has a good shot at receiving an at-large bid to the 26-team NCAA tournament, which begins May 10.

Halfpenny said the possible postseason scenarios haven’t distracted her team, understanding it has limited control over its conference tournament fate.

“There’s no sense in being distracted over things you can’t control, and unfortunately we lost control of whether or not we’re in the Big East last Sunday,” Halfpenny said. “We moved forward, and we’re going to control things we can control and that is Saturday’s game.”

With the regular season coming to a close Saturday, Notre Dame will honor its seven seniors in a pregame ceremony before it takes the field against Marquette. The team’s seniors are goalkeepers Ellie Hilling and Adele Bruggeman, defender Emily Connor, midfielder McKenzie Brown and attackers Betsy Mastropieri, Jaimie Morrison and Jenny Granger, who also serves as the team’s co-captain.

Halfpenny said this year’s senior class has really made an impact during its time at Notre Dame.

“[The seniors] have done a lot for Notre Dame over the course of their careers,” she said. “They’ve definitely put their name in the record books in the last two seasons with great starts as well as closing gaps on some good teams in the country. We’re excited to honor each and every one of them.”

Notre Dame and Marquette will play Saturday at 1 p.m. at Arlotta Stadium.

Contact Brian Hartnett at [email protected]