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ND Women’s Lacrosse

Undefeated Irish see possible championship run cut short

| Friday, May 15, 2020

Before the Notre Dame women’s lacrosse season was canceled, it appeared that this Irish team was prepared to compete for the national title. The Irish had a 7-0 record and finished as the No. 2-ranked team in the nation when the year was ultimately ended. 

The abbreviated season included a 17-15 road victory over then-No. 3 Northwestern. The Irish also toppled back-to-back ranked ACC foes in then-No. 22 Duke and then-No. 18 Boston College.

Erin Fennessy | The Observer

Irish sophomore attack Mollie Carr braces for a pass during Notre Dame’s 16-4 victory over Louisville last season on March 2, 2019 at Loftus Sports Center.

Head coach Christine Halfpenny mentioned she was grateful that her team was together on a spring break trip in Nashville, Tennessee, when they found out their season had ended because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We were able to still be in person and be together for the next 24 hours, which was really great,” Halfpenny said. “And now we look at it as really special because a lot of teams didn’t have that opportunity.”

Despite her team being apart as of late, Halfpenny said she is pleased her players are remaining in contact with each other during the pandemic.

“Our team just has a really strong culture and really strong relationships, so they have remained in contact,” she said. “I have remained in contact with them as well through the remainder of the semester just to check in with them and make sure that they are okay and looking to find positives in a time that is unprecedented with so many unknowns.”

She also said that some of her players have become leaders in their communities during the pandemic and helped raise money for a variety of charities.

Halfpenny has been proud of how her 10 seniors and two graduate students have reacted to the abrupt end of their careers. She shared that all of these players led by example this season, but she specifically mentioned her graduate students, attack Samantha Lynch and defender Makenna Pearsall, as strong leaders.

“They were just an incredible group with incredible futures all waiting for them,” Halfpenny said. “It was so nice to be able to hear from many of them. They all know it’s not the end because now they are part of the alumni ranks, which are incredibly strong and supportive. We know that it’s not necessarily goodbye at this point for them.”

Although the team had strong senior leadership, freshman attack Madison Ahern and fellow freshman midfielder Kasey Choma were also integral to the team’s success. Halfpenny discussed how impressed she was with both players throughout their rookie season.

“They had a great truncated freshman year. They came in, and they contributed right out of the gate,” she said. “They’re tireless workers, and they’re fantastic teammates. They follow when they are led, but when they had to lead in certain moments, it was great to see them willing to do that. They were just very aware of how their efforts could affect the team this year.”

When asked about her favorite moment of the year, Halfpenny said the little moments stood out to her the most.

“There are so many of these little moments that jump out,” she said. “Whether it’s our annual Halloween tradition, our Christmas dinners together, our fall break trip out to Colorado and hiking out there or visiting teammates’ homes for meals, there are so many little moments. Those are the things right now where you have the flashbacks.”

As far as memorable on-field performances, there was one game that stood out according to Halfpenny.

“I think I would be remised if you didn’t ask all of us what the most memorable moment of the 2020 season was in a very short year. I think it was obviously the entire day where we beat Northwestern,” she said.

Before their 2020 matchup against the perennial powerhouse Wildcats, the Irish had been winless against their regional rival since 2016.

“To see them know that they could do it and then fight like the warriors that they are to get the results that they wanted, I think that is without a doubt something that this program will remember for a long time,” Halfpenny said. “It brings a smile to my face when I think about it.”

On a personal note, Halfpenny sais the pandemic has taught her team to never take anything for granted.

“We never took anything for granted,” she said. “We didn’t know how this was how it was going to end, but we were lucky we took so much time to focus on our culture to make sure we had gratitude every day and make sure we cared for each other every day. In that regard, when that season ended due to the pandemic, we were able to say that we had no regrets.”

Regardless of how the roster changes next season, Halfpenny said, the Irish will look to compete on the national stage once again.

“Our goal will be to pick up where we left off,” she said. “It will not be the same. We know that. We will have new challenges, new faces, and lots of new personalities.”

Even with these new faces, Halfpenny has built a strong culture and foundation for success amongst her team. The 2020 season looked to be one primed for Irish success, and although they never got to see it to fruition, Halfpenny said she believes the program has the ability to achieve sustained success.

“The goal will be to remain the same and be the best possible Notre Dame women’s lacrosse team that these individuals can be together by supporting each other every step of the way with great integrity and great respect,” she said. “We will be in pursuit of excellence again.”

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