April 27, 2009
Washington, D.C. - For much of the 2009 season, the Notre Dame women's lacrosse team has been know for their offensive exploits. Coming into this weekend's BIG EAST Championship, the Irish led the league in scoring and were ranked fifth in the nation when it comes to putting the ball in the net.
That all changed this weekend as the Notre Dame defense, led by senior goalkeeper Erin Goodman (Cortlandt Manor, N.Y.), made a statement in leading the Irish to their first-ever BIG EAST championship, knocking off Georgetown, 12-10, in the BIG EAST title game Sunday at Georgetown's Multi-Purpose Sports Facility.
Goodman made nine saves, including two in the final four minutes on her way to the tournament's most outstanding player award while the Irish defense halted Georgetown's late game rally for the 12-10 win.
Sophomore Kaitlin Keena (Vienna, Va.) led the Irish with three goals while Jillian Byers (Sr., Northport, N.Y.), Gina Scioscia (Jr., Summit, N.J.), Kailene Abt (So., Huntington, N.Y.) and Ansley Stewart (So., Alexandria, Va.) scored two goals each. Shaylyn Blaney (So., Stony Brook, N.Y.) added the final goal. Byers and Scioscia also had three assists each for five point afternoons.
Jordy Kirr and Molly Ford led Georgetown with three goals each. Ashby Kaestner, Jacqueline Giles, Allie Hubschmann and Mary Beth Brophy had one goal each for the Hoyas.
The BIG EAST championship gives the Irish the conference's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament and avenges the 2008 BIG EAST semifinal loss to the Hoyas, 15-14, in triple overtime at Notre Dame Stadium.
The victory improves the Irish to 14-4 on the season overall, marking just the second time in the program's 13-year history that the Irish have won 14 or more games (15 is the record and was set in 2006). The Hoyas fall to 12-5 with the loss. Notre Dame has one more regular-season game on the docket as they travel to Cornell on Saturday, May 2.
For head coach Tracy Coyne, the only coach in the program's history, her first BIG EAST Championship was gratifying.
"It's amazing to finally get this championship. It's the first championship of any kind for the program," said Coyne.
"As we were celebrating I realized that we also have the automatic bid. That's a great feeling to know that you are in the NCAA Tournament and you are also the BIG EAST Champions."
Goodman and Byers echoed their coach. "Every year we write this down as one of our goals," said Goodman.
"The last two years we made it to the semifinals and lost. It's amazing. We finally did it. Winning is a lot more fun. The BIG EAST is so amazing. It's an honor to be in the same conference with all these talented girls. We knew we were as good as them, but we just needed to show it and finally this year we did."
Byers added, "This is a dream come true. It's incredible. We've been working at this for four years. It's finally nice to have something to show for our hard work."
Played in sweltering temperatures with the game-time temperature at 87 degrees, the Irish sent an early message, scoring the first four goals on the way to a 9-2 lead at halftime.
Keena got Notre Dame on the scoreboard first at 25:35, converting a nice feed from Scioscia and beating Hoya goalkeeper Caitlin Formby, the conference's first team all-BIG EAST selection.
Scioscia and Byers teamed up for the second goal of the game at 22:58 and Byers followed that by setting up Stewart at 17:22 to make it 3-0.
Abt then closed out the run at 16:50 with her first of the game as she weaved through the Georgetown defense before scoring the fourth goal of the game.
Hubschmann broke up the run when she beat Goodman in close with 11:19 left in the first half, cutting the Notre Dame lead to 4-1.
The Irish answered back with three consecutive tallies to make it 7-1 with Abt (10:08), Byers (9:47) and Keena (8:32) scoring for Notre Dame.
Giles cut the lead to 7-2 with 3:28 left only to see Blaney reply just 13 seconds later with a free-position shot at 3:15. Stewart then scored with just 1.2 seconds left in the half, converting a brilliant pass from freshman Maggie Tamasitis (Boyertown, Pa.) as time was running out for the 9-2 margin at halftime.
Amazingly, the Irish had been in this position before. In the 2008 BIG EAST semifinals, Notre Dame jumped out to a 9-2 lead with over seven minutes left in the first half versus the Hoyas. Georgetown would rally to make it 10-6 at the half on the way to the 15-14 triple overtime win.
In 2009, it looked like the Hoyas planned a repeat.
Kirr opened the scoring with a free-position goal at 28:46, making it 9-3, but Byers, the BIG EAST co-attack player of the year answered back less than two minutes later with her second goal of the game to restore the seven-goal lead.
Ford got her first of the game for the Hoyas at 25:12 but Notre Dame answered back with goals from Scioscia (24:23) from Tamasitis and Keena getting her third from Scioscia at 19:40 to make it 12-4 in favor of the Irish.
From there, Georgetown would run off the final six goals of the game in an 11:29 span with Kirr and Ford getting two each and Kaestner and Brophy one apiece. Brophy's unassisted goal with 7:01 left would be the last goal of the game for either team as the Notre Dame defense stiffened.
"We've been down this road before with Georgetown," explained Coyne. "The are a potent attacking team and we knew they had a run in them. We may have gotten a little tight down the stretch and gotten too conservative, but we held on.
Goodman made the save of the game with a little over four minutes left, turning a way a point-blank shot by Ford with the Irish taking possession and not giving up a scoring chance the rest of the way.
"I just tried to stay centered and give us a chance to win down the stretch," said Goodman, Notre Dame's all-time win leader.
"The great first half made it our game to lose and we weren't going to lose it at that point. I'm so proud of my teammates and the way they played. It was amazing."
From there the Irish would run out the clock, stalling for much of the remainder of the game until the final moments wound down.
"Georgetown made a great run at the end, but Erin and our defense came through at the end," said Coyne.
"They have such gifted attack players and they have sets that they run but will go out of when they see an advantage. I thought we reacted well to what they were doing. We had good body position in the first half and we forced them into some low percentage shots and that was a key to the game."
On the afternoon, the Irish outshot Georgetown by a 28-27 margin. Formby made six saves in the game. The Hoyas had 13 turnovers with Notre Dame forcing 10 of them as Shannon Burke (Sr., Timonium, Md.) led the team with three caused turnovers.
The Irish placed six players on the all-tournament team with Goodman, Byers, Burke, Scioscia, Abt and defender Rachel Guerrera (Jr., Wantagh, N.Y.) taking honors. They were joined by Syracuse's Katie Rowan, Louisville's Bergan Foley and the Hoyas' Kaestner, Ford, Kirr and defender Bridget Noon.
** With the high heat and humidity, you would think depth would be a factor in the game. Georgetown used 13 players off the bench while the Irish used just three.
** The wins over Syracuse and Georgetown in the BIG EAST Tournament improves the Irish to 6-4 this season versus teams ranked in the IWLCA coaches' poll. The wins were the first for Notre Dame against teams ranked in the top 10.
** With three assists in the game, Gina Scioscia now has a new career high with 38. Her career best prior to this season was 35, set in 2008.
** With two goals and three assists in the game, Jillian Byers now has 70 goals and 24 assists on the season for 94 points. The 24 assists ties her career high set in 2006. The 70 goals are a career high and make her just the second player in the program's history with 70 or more goals as she joins Crysti Foote `06, who had 74 in the 2006 season.
GAME SUMMARY 1 2 - F #11/#12 Notre Dame (14-4) 9 3 - 12 #7/#8 Georgetown (12-5) 2 8 - 10