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ND Women’s Lacrosse

Irish set for another top-15 showdown against North Carolina

| Friday, March 31, 2023

This season has presented Notre Dame women’s lacrosse with no shortage of difficult opponents. The Irish have already faced the top two teams in the country in Syracuse and Northwestern, respectively, losing to both. They handed No. 22 Clemson its first loss in program history back on Feb. 25, then crushed No. 20 Duke a week later. Two games ago, the Irish were unable to overcome a disastrous second quarter, falling 16-13 to No. 11 Virginia.

That’s half of Notre Dame’s season so far right there. And things will not get much easier with game 11, which puts the Irish against No. 3 North Carolina. So far, the No. 12 ranked Irish have largely won the games they were supposed to — and lost the ones they were supposed to as well. Saturday offers the Irish a chance at a signature victory.

Notre Dame should enter their matchup with the Tar Heels, the second contest of a three-game homestand, with confidence. In the last game-and-a-half since that nightmare second quarter against the Cavaliers, the Irish have outscored their opponents 30-12. After their late comeback push against Virginia came up just short, Notre Dame won another one of those games they expect to win against Brown.

Brown did enter the game 5-3 but has struggled mightily against ranked teams, and they fared no better against the Irish. Three Irish players tallied hat-tricks, with senior attacker Madison Ahern leading the way with five goals. Ahern and senior attacker Jackie Wolak each registered six points, with Wolak finishing with a trio of goals and assists. Notre Dame took a 5-0 lead less than 10 minutes in on goals from five different goal scorers — senior midfielder Kasey Choma, junior midfielders Kelly Denes and Keelin Schlageter, Wolak and senior attacker Jane McAvoy. Notre Dame led by at least three goals the entire way thanks to a balanced attack. The Irish scored at least four goals every quarter. And after Brown cut the lead to 10-7 early in the third, Notre Dame scored the last 11 goals to eliminate any drama.

North Carolina should be able to offer more resistance, however. The Tar Heels have a sparkling 9-1 record and are a perfect 5-0 in conference play. UNC’s lone blemish was a 13-9 loss to No. 2 Northwestern, who also beat the Irish earlier this year by a slightly larger 18-14 margin. The teams have two other common opponents, Virginia and Clemson. UNC took home victory in each of those games by at least five goals. In fact, North Carolina’s last game was against Clemson, a convincing win in which the Tar Heels held the Tigers to just four goals in the first three quarters.

Expect Saturday’s contest to be a low-scoring one, as the Tar Heels and Irish are one-two in goals against in the ACC, respectively. It helps that both squads are confident in their goaltending, with both UNC’s Alecia Nicholas and Notre Dame junior Lilly Callahan both top-five in the conference in goals-against average and save percentage. Offensively, Marissa White is a true goalscorer, tallying 24 times to just two assists. Reilly Casey and Caitlyn Wurzburger are more well-rounded, ranking fifth and seventh in the conference in assists per game and combining for 42 goals.

The Irish will look for their biggest victory of the season at noon. The game also serves as the team’s annual Daughters 4 Dads game. It is available to watch on the ACC Network.

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About Andrew McGuinness

Andrew McGuinness is a senior in Siegfried Hall and Sports Editor of The Observer. He is from Haddonfield, New Jersey, and loves all of his Philly sports teams, even if they don't always love him back. Reach out below or on Twitter (@_AndrewMcG) to talk sports or TV shows, especially if they're Stranger Things, Survivor, Abbott Elementary or/and Severance.

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