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ND Women’s Lacrosse

No. 18 Irish split weekend matchups

| Tuesday, February 27, 2018

No. 18 Notre Dame played host to two opponents this weekend, splitting the results. The Irish played a hard-fought game against No. 13 USC on Friday, with the Trojans ultimately winning the game by a score of 11-8. Notre Dame rebounded Sunday afternoon with an 11-9 victory over Elon.

The Irish (3-2, 0-1 ACC) played a stellar first half against USC (2-2, 0-0 Pac-12) on Friday, going on a 4-0 run after the Trojans’ first goal and taking a 4-3 lead into halftime. Over the course of the half, Notre Dame won all eight draw controls.

Ann Curtis | The Observer

Irish junior attack Nikki Ortega runs up the field during Notre Dame’s 21-9 win over Marquette on Feb. 14, 2017 at Loftus Sports Center.

USC tied the game at 4-4 less than four minutes into the second half, however. The string of unanswered Trojan goals that followed left Southern California leading by a score of 7-4. Despite four more Irish goals and a continued strong effort, USC was eventually able to secure the 11-8 victory.

Six Irish players found the back of the net Friday, with freshman midfielder Katherine Enrietto and junior attacker Nikki Ortega scoring twice each. Notre Dame’s two goalkeepers, freshman Bridget Deehan and junior Samantha Giacolone, combined for a 50 percent save percentage, blocking 11 of 22 shots.

Irish head coach Christine Halfpenny said she was very proud of Notre Dame’s effort against a highly-ranked and very talented USC team.

“I think that there were highs and lows in the game that we can look at,” Halfpenny said. “Overall, I feel like we gave great effort and fought really, really hard from start to finish as a team.”

Halfpenny also said the Irish are not yet at full strength due to injuries, and Notre Dame needs to continue playing with its same intensity throughout the second half in order to enhance its chances of winning.

“We just have to continue to fight to stay focused on our identity, who we are, doing what we do,” she said. “I think we’re learning that, and unfortunately, it’s a tough lesson to learn via a loss. … We haven’t been at full health since we started the season, and we can shore some things up when we have a little more depth, so we’re excited that that’s on the upswing.”

On Sunday, the Irish found most of their success in the second half. Elon took a 3-0 lead in the game’s first five minutes, and despite Notre Dame netting three goals of its own, the Phoenix closed out the half with a 7-3 lead.

The Irish closed the gap in dramatic fashion in the second half, opening the first 10 minutes of the period with five unanswered goals to take an 8-7 lead, their first of the day. While Elon did manage to tie the game again with 9:32 to go, the Irish managed to outscore the Phoenix 8-2 in the second half and came away with an 11-9 win.

Offensively, the Irish had a great day. Five Irish players managed to score. Freshman midfielder Diana Kelly led the team in scoring with four goals, and freshman midfielder Maddie Howe accounted for four of the seven assists Notre Dame had on the day. The Irish dominated on draw controls and shots in the second half, and the defense was able to keep the Phoenix largely in check to see out the victory.

Halfpenny credited Elon with a very strong first half, but she also praised her own team’s ability to then be able to turn the game around.

“A lot of credit goes to Elon for the way they came out,” she said.”They had a game plan that was to get us on our heels, and I think they did just that. … I’m really proud of the way [we] responded to the adversity; they dug their heels in and got back to doing what we do, which is huge.”

Halfpenny also said Sunday’s win was a great way to close out the weekend after Friday’s result.

“On a two-game swing like that, for them to feel the victory and how their career-best effort paid off was massive,” she said. “I’m thrilled with how they really battled through the adversity and really flipped the switch and the script on Elon.”

The Irish will continue their home stand Wednesday, looking to secure their fourth win of the season against Marquette. The Golden Eagles (3-2) are coming off a three-game winning streak and will provide another strong early-season challenge for Notre Dame. The game is set to begin at 4 p.m. at Loftus Sports Center.

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