April 5, 2014
NOTRE DAME, Ind. - Three straight weekends at home against nationally prominent ACC foes kicks off on Saturday for the No. 8 Notre Dame women's lacrosse team on Saturday when the Fighting Irish (8-4, 1-3 ACC) play host to No. 16 Virginia (6-6, 0-3) at Arlotta Stadium at 3:00 p.m. ESPN3 will showcase the game against a Cavaliers team with a deceptive record.
Virginia may have six losses, but five of them are top 10 teams while the other was against a Princeton side which has been ranked for portions of this season. UVa also has a win over then-No. 8 Penn State to its credit in 2014. Perennial NCAA tournament picks under 19th year head coach Julie Myers, the Cavaliers pose the first of three straight conference tests for the Irish.
Next Friday night, Notre Dame plays host to No. 7 Duke. On Saturday, April 19, No. 3 Syracuse comes to town. There are no soft spots when you play in a league that features six of the top nine teams in the nation and this homestand will prove crucial as the Irish prepare for both the ACC and NCAA tournaments.
UVa brings two of the nation's top scorers to South Bend in Liza Blue and Courtney Swan while Liz Colgan has made countless crucial saves in the Calavier net. It is the first meeting between the two teams although Irish head coach Christine Halfpenny does have ample familiarity with Virginia in general. Halfpenny has faced UVa a total of 16 times either as a player at Virginia Tech, an assistant coach at Virginia Tech and Duke, and as head coach at William & Mary.
The Irish will counter with what has been a balanced attack and solid team defense. A total of 18 different Notre Dame players have scored a goal this year, including five in double figures. Six different Notre Dame players have scored a hat trick this spring. The group is led by 31 from Cortney Fortunato which ranks second nationally for a freshman.
Defensively, Notre Dame has held eight of its 12 foes to single digits on the scoreboard. The Irish rank amongst the nation's elite in both ground balls and caused turnovers with Margaret Smith leading the ACC in each category on an individual level.
An important battle to watch in the midfield will be draw controls as Swan leads the ACC in that crucial category. Notre Dame will need to have a big day here to limit extra possessions for UVa.
For more information on the Irish, game notes for Saturday's matchup are online here.