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Women’s Lacrosse: Offense silenced in pair of losses

Brian Hartnett | Monday, April 22, 2013

Notre Dame’s trademark high-powered offensive attack went silent this weekend, as the No. 7 Irish struggled to find the net in road losses to No. 5 Syracuse on Friday and No. 19 Connecticut on Sunday.

Entering the weekend as the 14th best scoring offense in the country, the Irish (11-3, 5-3 Big East) were held well below their season offensive averages in an 11-8 loss to the Orange (12-3, 6-0) and a 10-7 defeat at the hands of the Huskies (13-1, 5-1).

“Syracuse was a little bit more high-pressure and used its athletic ability to stifle us at times,” Irish coach Christine Halfpenny said. “[Connecticut] was the antithesis of high pressure, they packed in and played a clogging style of defense, but it was also very aggressive at times as well. It’s a credit to both defenses that they were able to limit a team that’s been averaging 13 points per game over the course of a weekend.”

Notre Dame struggled out of the gate at the Carrier Dome on Friday, as the Irish allowed four Syracuse goals in the game’s first 12 minutes. Back-to-back goals by senior attack Jenny Granger cut the Orange lead to 4-2, but Syracuse went on a 3-1 run to take a 7-3 lead into the half.

“For whatever reason, we came out pretty flat,” Halfpenny said. “The energy wasn’t quite there throughout the course of the weekend, and we really need to identify why and how to fix that.”

The Irish suffered a similarly lackluster start to the second half, as they saw Syracuse stretch its lead to 9-4 with 26:24 left in the game. Notre Dame reduced the deficit to two after a 3-0 run, but Syracuse iced the game when it scored two goals in 40 seconds to take an 11-7 lead with slightly more than 12 minutes to go.

Notre Dame also fell behind early Sunday afternoon at the Sherman Family Sports Complex in Storrs, Conn., as Connecticut jumped out to an early 4-1 edge and took a 6-4 lead in the second half.

The Irish were unable to muster a second-half rally, falling behind 9-4 after the Huskies scored the first three goals of the half. Notre Dame scored three of the game’s final four goals, but they weren’t enough to stop Connecticut from pulling the upset victory.

Notre Dame struggled to find offensive opportunities Friday night, taking only 15 shots on the net. On Sunday, the Irish had more looks at the net, but they struggled to convert, scoring only seven goals on 23 attempts. 

Halfpenny said some of the offensive struggles came down to miscommunications and unforced mistakes.

“I think it comes down to the players on the field demanding a little bit more of each other and setting each other up for success,” she said. “Sometimes, it’s something as simple as we get back-checked, and everybody is looking at it, but the players know. We’re playing a lot of young players, and we’re prepared for some mistakes here and there from the younger players, but we really have to tighten up some of those unforced errors.”

Normally a decent team on the draw, Notre Dame struggled in that area this weekend, as the Irish lost draw controls 14-7 against Syracuse and 11-8 against Connecticut.

“When you ultimately lose the game by a handful, the possessions become a little bit more critical,” Halfpenny said. “We just have to tighten up and take a little more pride in our basics.”

Notre Dame will return to action when it hosts No. 2 Northwestern at Arlotta Stadium on Wednesday.

Contact Brian Hartnett at [email protected]