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ND Women’s Lacrosse

Irish look to rebound from first loss with road game against Toledo

| Thursday, December 6, 2018

The No. 2 Irish will return to the court Sunday as they travel to Toledo, Ohio, to take on Toledo. Coming off its first loss of the season, falling 89-71 to now-No. 1 Connecticut, Notre Dame (7-1) is looking to get back to the basics against the Rockets (6-2).

In a rematch of last season’s NCAA Final Four overtime showdown, the Irish kept things competitive with the Huskies (8-0) through three quarters. Unfortunately for Notre Dame, though, fatigue and frustration seemed to set in as UConn dominated Notre Dame in the final frame, outscoring them 24-12. The pace showed on the stat sheet, with all five Irish starters racking up at least three fouls, including senior guards Arike Ogunbowale and Marina Mabrey and fellow senior forward Jessica Shepard, who finished the game with four fouls. Half of the Huskies’ points down the stretch came from free throws.

“Win or lose, I think it’s that kind of game that there’s still a lot of basketball left and you’ve got to figure out what you’re doing well and how to fix the things you’re not doing well,” Irish head coach Muffet McGraw said.

With a week off, Notre Dame will look to apply those adjustments against Toledo. The Rockets stumbled early in the season, losing their opener to Maine. However, they’ve bounced back, winning six of the last seven games and proving they’re capable of battling to the final whistles, with those last four games being decided by fewer than 10 points. Notre Dame can expect Toledo to continue to run its offense through the guard-center combo of junior Mariella Santucci and senior Kaayla McIntyre. McIntyre, a 6-foot-2 center from Toledo, has led the team in average points and field goal percentage, with 15.1 and 58.6 percent, respectively. Santucci, a point guard from Bologna, Italy, has proven to be a well-balanced threat, averaging just under five rebounds and assists, in addition to her 11.5 points per game.

Both Toledo and Notre Dame have struggled from long range through the first eight games, shooting 28.7 and 27.7 percent from behind the arc, respectively. The addition of sharp-shooting senior guard Marina Mabrey, making her fourth appearance this season against the Rockets after missing the first five games of the season due to a leg injury, should help spread out the Toledo defense.

Annie Smierciak
Irish senior guard Marina Mabrey calls out a play from midcourt during Notre Dame’s 89-71 loss to UConn on Dec. 2 at Purcell Pavilion.

McGraw and her staff are still trying to test out various rotations and figure out how the underclassmen will fit in the equation. With the exception of sophomore forward Danielle Patterson’s 12 minutes of play, no other bench players saw more than two minutes on the court against UConn.

McGraw said after spending most of last season trying to figure out how to win without graduate student forward Brianna Turner, who missed the entirety of her senior season with a torn ACL, the Irish are now having to learn how to win with her back on the court. Despite the transitions they’ve faced in integrating other players, McGraw commended Turner’s 10-point, six-rebound and four-block effort against the Huskies.

Going forward, the game against Toledo is the first of three matchups against unranked opponents, before Notre Dame takes on No. 22 Marquette on the road Dec. 22. The Irish will have one more non-conference game following the Golden Eagles (6-1), as they host Lehigh on Dec. 30 before jumping into the ACC regular season by welcoming Pittsburgh on Jan. 3.

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