ND Women’s Lacrosse
Squad prepares for lone exhibition
Jack Hefferon | Thursday, February 6, 2014
National championships aren’t awarded until Memorial Day weekend, but the process of winning them starts long before then.
For No. 11 Notre Dame, that journey will start on Saturday night when it hosts Michigan for the team’s lone scrimmage before diving into its schedule. And after months of practices with the same competition, Irish coach Christine Halfpenny and her team are looking forward to testing themselves with a new opponent.
“We’ve had an intrasquad scrimmage last weekend, a really competitive scrimmage which showed us how deep we are,” Halfpenny said. “But I’m excited to see what it looks like when we put it all together. We’ve been working on fragments of our game, getting our punches and counterpunches all set as we head out there, but I’m really excited to see us play someone other than ourselves.”
Notre Dame’s opponent Saturday will be new in every sense of the word. The Wolverines are entering their first season of varsity competition, and 26 of their 27 players are freshmen. Saturday’s scrimmage will be Michigan’s first time taking the field as a team, and Halfpenny said she is excited to see the sport grow and to start a new rivalry.
“We’re pumped to be a part of history,” she said. “Whenever you have the opportunity to begin a program that’s a really exciting thing, and when you have the opportunity to be the very first championship season opponent that that brand new rival will see, we want to make a big deal about that. We want to welcome them into Division I and start the rivalry, so that’s something else we’re looking forward to on Saturday.”
The Irish will also welcome their new players to collegiate competition this weekend. The 10-member freshmen class was ranked as the No. 5 class in the country by Inside Lacrosse, and is headlined by the nation’s top recruit, Cortney Fortunato, who should pose as an immediate threat for the Irish attack and midfield units.
Halfpenny said all 10 members of the deep class look ready to contribute, and Saturday’s scrimmage will serve as ideal grounds to do so.
“There’s obvious people I could point out too, but right now we’re really looking forward to see all of them,” Halfpenny said. “Each and every one of the freshmen have shown why they’re ready to play at this level and how they’re ready to take on our opponent and push us over the hump. I’m not going to pull just one out, even though we have obvious names we are considering. I think the entire freshmen class is going to be very intriguing.”
Heading into its first season in the brutally tough ACC, the Irish have plenty of big games coming up fast. Following Saturday, there are only four days until their home opener, one week until their ACC opener, and less than a month until their Feb. 27 trip to Chapel Hill to take on the defending national champions.
However, the Irish aren’t looking past the opportunity to test and gauge themselves against the Wolverines.
“You come to Notre Dame to be the best and to win national championships,” Halfpenny said. “But right now we’re taking it one day at a time, one game at a time. Our goal is to be better tomorrow than we are today, and our focus right now is on starting the season 1-0.”
Notre Dame and Michigan will kick off their seasons Saturday night at the Loftus Sports Center, where the opening draw is set for 7:30 p.m.