ND Women’s Lacrosse
Women’s lacrosse to face early season test against No. 3-ranked Wildcats
Nate Moller | Friday, February 14, 2020
After a dominating victory over Marquette, the No. 6/7-ranked Notre Dame women’s lacrosse team will face a huge early-season test Friday when they head to Evanston to face off against the No. 3-ranked Northwestern. The Irish (1-0) fell to the Wildcats (2-0) in the second round of last year’s NCAA tournament, so Friday’s contest figures to be a good indicator of how the season might go for the Irish going forward.
Head coach Christine Halfpenny was very pleased with how her team looked against Marquette last week. Her team won the turnover battle by a significant margin and had an above 50% shooting percentage, and she hopes they can carry this success into Friday’s contest.
“It was a good opener for us,” Halfpenny said. “We played the way that we wanted to play regardless of who our opponent was. We were really utilizing our speed, and we were really smart and played with clean aggression.”
The preparation in the preseason and after the Marquette game has the Irish ready for their critical matchup against the Wildcats.
“We had a great week of preparation building off of what we have been working on over the last three weeks in the preseason and what we saw against Marquette,” Halfpenny said. “It was great to get two full days of preparation focused on us and what we have to do to play against Northwestern, which is always a good matchup.”
The Irish and Wildcats are very familiar with each other having played twice last year and in a preseason scrimmage in November. Halfpenny is excited to face another top team in the Midwest region so early in the season.
“It’s a great opportunity so early, and we both know each other quite well. We played them in November in a late fall scrimmage just three months ago. That isn’t too different than what they should like playing them now or what they looked like in May when we played them in the NCAA tournament,” Halfpenny said.
Halfpenny feels her team knows what to expect come Friday’s matchup.
“They return nearly everybody with the exception of one of the most prolific goal scorers,” Halfpenny said. “They return a lot of players who did a lot of work for them last year. We do feel like we know them quite well, and it’s great to play this high a level of competition this early in the season.”
She also believes that playing a team as good as Northwestern early in the season forces her team to work harder and will prepare them well for ACC play.
“It gets our players extremely focused, and it keeps them working really hard. You don’t take any breaks,” Halfpenny said. “It will get us ready when conference play comes along in a couple of weeks because we will already have this big game under our belts.”
Halfpenny acknowledged that Northwestern is one of the best teams in the country at the draw.
“That’s the signature area of their game that they are good at,” Halfpenny said. “We have to really neutralize and not let them run away. They get all these possessions from the draw, so that’s huge.”
However, she is confident in her team’s ability at the draw as well.
“It’s also an area that we have been really strong in in the past, so we feel really good about that battle,” Halfpenny said. “It is obviously a key to the game neutralizing that battle, so it is not one-sided.”
Another one of Northwestern’s strengths Halfpenny said she is concerned about is their ability to play fast and start quickly.
“They play fast, specifically in the transition game, and we are going to have to slow that down. That’s going to be really important to limit their scoring. They like to score in bunches, and they come out really fast,” Halfpenny said.
In their two games against Northwestern last season, the Irish learned about Northwestern’s early explosiveness the hard way.
“They took advantage of an early start, and we had to play catch up the entire way,” Halfpenny said. “That was a focus for us in November, and it will be a focus for us again, not allowing them to run away with an early, big lead. It’s really difficult to have to play behind. It’s not insurmountable, but it certainly doesn’t set you up for success.”
After the Northwestern game Friday, Notre Dame will have a quick turnaround to their game against Central Michigan on Sunday. Halfpenny is very confident in her team’s ability to deal with the short recovery period between games.
“We train so that we are ready for these quick turnarounds. It’s one of the main things that we worked on throughout the fall and through the preseason,” Halfpenny said. “Recovery is the number one thing. After our Friday night game, we get back here and Saturday is more of a recovery day to get prepped and ready for Central Michigan.”
Halfpenny is aware this quick turnaround will prepare the Irish for the NCAA tournament come May.
“This gives us a glimpse of later on in the season in the NCAA tournament where there is a quick turnaround in the first weekend and in the Final Four. It’s good to get a taste of that early on,” Halfpenny said.
Friday’s game in Evanston will begin at 8 p.m., and Sunday’s game will begin at noon in the Loftus Sports Center. Friday’s game can be viewed on the Big Ten Network Plus, and Sunday’s game will be on the ACC Network Extra.