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ND Women’s Lacrosse

Irish ACC tournament run begins with Boston College rematch

| Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Just six days after No. 13 Notre Dame lost to No. 12 Boston College to close out its regular season, the fourth-seeded Irish will have a chance for revenge, as the two teams open up ACC tournament play with a second-round meeting in Richmond, Virginia, on Thursday.

When the teams met on Saturday, the Irish (11-6, 4-3 ACC) struggled on the draw in the second half and allowed the Eagles (12-5, 3-4 ACC) to embark on a 7-0 run on the way to a 16-10 Boston College victory. The fifth-seeded Eagles are ranked ninth in the nation in draw controls with 15.38 per game, and Irish head coach Christine Halfpenny said she believes her players will need to work on reacting quickly to the ball coming out if they want to win more possessions.

“We’re really going to have to compete more on the draw and we’re going to have to come up with some big plans to do a better job there,” Halfpenny said. “It’s not necessarily the draw control specialist, it’s actually everybody around the circle and coming off the line. That’s one of [Boston College’s] signatures we’ve noticed from playing them in the ACC. They’ve been very good at that quick first step off of the line and getting to the ball. They’ve been very good at it this season against some of the top drawing teams in the conference and the best in the nation. So that’s going to be an area of focus for us for sure this week in preparation.”

Irish senior midfielder Casey Pearsall fires a pass across the field during Notre Dame's 21-9 win over Marquette at Loftus Sports Center on Feb. 14.Ann Curtis | The Observer
Irish senior midfielder Casey Pearsall fires a pass across the field during Notre Dame’s 21-9 win over Marquette at Loftus Sports Center on Feb. 14.

Halfpenny said the Irish were looking forward to the opportunity to improve against the Eagles.

“I think we’re really really excited to get down to Richmond,” Halfpenny said. “I think we’re going to have great weather for our second tilt against an opponent we just played six days ago. You don’t get a better scout than the live scout we just got, so we’re excited to put that to use and come out with a better result than last time out.”

The Eagles are led by sophomore attack Sam Apuzzo, who is seventh in the nation in goals and third in points. Apuzzo leads the ACC in both statistics, with Irish senior attack Cortney Fortunato immediately behind her. During the regular-season matchup, Apuzzo scored four goals and added an assist, while junior attack Kenzie Kent — who missed much of the season with injury — scored five and assisted on another two.

If the Irish can avenge last weekend’s defeat, the road to a conference championship will still be daunting. Six ACC teams are currently ranked, while the remaining two received votes. Leading those teams is regular-season conference champion and reigning national champion No. 3 North Carolina. The Tar Heels, as the top seed for the tournament, will be Notre Dame’s most likely opponent should the Irish defeat the Eagles, but will have to defeat rival Duke first.

On the opposite side of the draw, No. 4 Syracuse — last year’s national semifinalists — and a No. 14 Virginia squad that defeated the Irish 15-5 earlier this season are among the other challengers. Halfpenny said she relishes the challenge of competing against so many elite teams.

“How fun is this conference?” Halfpenny said. “It’s so exciting to have all of the top teams in the country. You’ve got the top team in North Carolina, the defending national champ; you’ve got Syracuse, who is really starting to come on strong at the end of this season with huge out-of-conference wins, making us obviously that much stronger; Louisville, who just recorded what I believe is their first ever win over Syracuse. Virginia and Virginia Tech just played a very close game.

“I think this is going to be an awesome tournament this weekend. I think it’s going to be exciting, I think everyone who comes is going to get what they paid for and all the athletes are going to have a blast. I think there’s nothing like playing the best of the best and putting your best out there and that’s what our gameplan’s going to be. We’re going to leave it all out there, we’re going to go for it. It’s a great opportunity for us to grow as a team, to get ready and to build a great resume for the NCAA tournament committee because that will be the second postseason opportunity that we’ll be working hard to put ourselves in a strong position for.”

The Irish and the Eagles will begin their 2017 ACC tournament campaigns on Thursday in Richmond. Opening draw is at 2 p.m.

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About Daniel O'Boyle

Daniel O'Boyle is a senior sports writer living in Alumni Hall, majoring in Political Science. He is currently on the Notre Dame Women's Basketball, Men's Tennis and Women's Soccer beats. Originally from Belfast, Northern Ireland, Daniel spends most of his free time attempting to keep up with second-flight English soccer and his beloved Reading FC. He believes Lonzo Ball is the greatest basketball player of all time.

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