ND Women’s Lacrosse
Irish score signature win against No. 3 North Carolina
Andrew McGuinness | Monday, April 3, 2023
Entering Saturday’s clash with North Carolina, the Notre Dame women’s lacrosse team was looking to impress. The Irish had won all of the easier games on their schedule and already pulled out a couple of wins over ranked opponents. But when they faced off against the nation’s best, such as No. 1 Syracuse and No. 2 Northwestern, the Irish could not prevail. They had some positive moments, coming especially close to putting the Wildcats on upset alert. But an elusive marquee victory to hang their hats on remained out of reach.
On Saturday afternoon, however, the Irish hugged and celebrated at midfield inside Loftus Sports Center. Notre Dame had its signature regular-season victory, beating the Tar Heels 16-12. It was the first Irish victory against North Carolina since March 31, 2019 — and the Tar Heels’ first loss in conference play since then, as the perennial powerhouse saw its 27-game ACC winning streak snapped in South Bend.
The last time the Irish played a top-five team (Syracuse on March 11), the game got away from them in the blink of an eye. The Irish surrendered the first three goals and found themselves down 6-1 less than 90 seconds into the second quarter. Beating an elite team like the Orange or Tar Heels requires a consistent effort, one the Irish did not have that day. Against North Carolina, things were much different. Senior midfielder Kasey Choma found the back of the net just 67 seconds in, giving the Irish the early lead. This time, it was Notre Dame that found itself sitting pretty early on, jumping out to a 5-2 lead at the end of the first quarter.
The Irish led by multiple goals almost the entire contest, going up 3-1 5:38 in on a goal by graduate midfielder Mary Kelly Doherty and leading by at least two the rest of the way. Other than a four-goal flurry early in the third, the Irish prevented the Tar Heels from gaining momentum, as North Carolina only scored consecutive goals one other time in the game. That was late in the fourth quarter, with the Irish already in the driver’s seat.
Three Notre Dame players notched hat tricks on the day. Senior attacker Madison Ahern led the way with five goals, while Choma and junior midfielder Kelly Denes had three apiece. Eight different players scored for the Irish and helped them to outshoot North Carolina 23-19. When the Tar Heels did have chances, junior goaltender Lilly Callahan came through when the Irish needed her. Callahan made seven saves in the Irish victory.
The win is an especially timely one for the Irish, whose next game is against another top-ten opponent: No. 7 Boston College. The game marks the end of a season-long three-game home stand for the Irish. It won’t be easy for the Irish to knock off another of the country’s best teams. But having the experience and knowledge that they can take down a top-ten team should give the Irish not just a better chance of beating the Eagles but of getting to face more great teams in a deep NCAA Tournament run.