April 23, 2013
NOTRE DAME, Ind. - Looking to bounce back after a pair of close BIG EAST road losses, the No. 9/10 University of Notre Dame women's lacrosse team returns home to Arlotta Stadium to meet defending national champion Northwestern (No. 4/4) at 7 p.m. Wednesday. The contest will be Notre Dame's annual Lax for the Cure game.
The Irish (11-3, 5-3 BIG EAST) wrapped up their BIG EAST slate this past weekend and close out the regular season against the Wildcats (13-2, 4-1 ALC) and first year program Marquette (2-14). The game against the Golden Eagles begins at 1 p.m. Saturday and marks senior day for seven student-athletes and a senior manager.
Northwestern is coming off a 22-4 loss at No. 2/2 Florida this past Saturday. The Wildcats have a plethora of elite talent, led by Erin Fitzgerald's 48 goals and 53 points, Alyssa Leonard's remarkable 96 draw controls, Taylor Thornton's line of 21 goals, 30 ground balls, 30 draw controls and 18 caused turnovers and Gabriella Flibotte's 41 ground balls, 35 draw controls and 34 caused turnovers.
The Wildcats have won seven of the last eight national titles and own a commanding 13-2 record over the Irish since Notre Dame won in 2002 and 2003. Last year the Irish dropped a pair of contests to the Wildcats, losing 17-7 in the regular season before falling 12-7 in the first round of the NCAA Championship in a game that was much closer than the score indicated.
2011 marked the last time the Irish played host to Northwestern, falling by just three goals (14-11) to the No. 2 Wildcats in an early-season showdown.
The contest will also be Notre Dame's annual Lax for the Cure game. More information on the Lax for the Cure game can be found on UND.com.
Fans can follow the game through gametracker or UND.com's live video broadcast. Links for both are on UND.com.
THE OPENING DRAW
So far this season the Irish have made a habit of staging second half comebacks ... in four of its 11 wins Notre Dame has trailed at the half ... these include 7-2 at Stanford (Feb. 16), 5-3 at Duquesne (March 2), 8-4 versus Boston University (March 9) and 7-6 versus Louisville (April 5) ... in the first three contests the Irish came out blazing, out-scoring the competition by a wide margin in the second frame, while against the Cardinals the Irish claimed a 2OT win ... Notre Dame outscored Stanford, 10-3, Duquesne, 7-3, and Boston, 12-3, in the second half to earn victories in each game ... the Irish also trailed 6-5 early in the second half of the game against Vanderbilt before coming back to win 12-11 in Nashville over the Commodores.
Second Half Team
As referenced in the previous note, the Irish have been a second half team all season ... the numbers back it up too as the Irish hold a slim 71-67 edge in goals scored in the first half but have dominated in the second half, 104-55 ... the total goes from +4 in the first half to +49 in the second half ... more shots are the obvious reason for the big disparity ... in the first half Notre Dame has taken 178 shots, while the opponents have taken 177 ... in the second half the Irish have taken 201, while limiting their opponents to just 152, a difference of 49 ... quality shots (aka shots on goal) show a big disparity too as Notre Dame leads in the first half 136-129 in shots, but 160-107 in the second half, a difference of 53.
A Smothering Defense
While the Notre Dame offense has done its part on the opponent's end of the field, the Irish defense has proved to be pesky and sometimes smothering to the opponent's offense ... the Irish are allowing just 8.93 goals a game, which puts them 24th in the country ... ND is first in the BIG EAST in caused turnovers (10.57), ground balls per game (18.64) and save percentage (.479) and fifth in draw controls (12.57) ... in those same categories the Irish are sixth in CT, 10th in GB and 33rd in DC in the country, while senior goalie Ellie Hilling is eighth in the country in save percentage (.476).
Leader of the Defense
Barbara Sullivan may only be a sophomore, but she is playing like a senior as she leads the team in ground balls (45), draw controls (54) and caused turnovers (29) ... she is first in the BIG EAST and second nationally in ground balls per game (3.21), sits second in the league and 24th nationally in draw controls per game (3.86) and is first in the conference and eighth nationally in caused turnovers per game (2.07) ... Sullivan has also taken matters into her own hands on the offensive end this season, scoring the first two goals and dishing out the first assist of her career during opportune moments ... if she continues on her torrid pace, Sullivan should be a strong candidate for both BIG EAST Defensive Player of the Year award and the Tewaaraton Award, which goes to the nation's best player ... Sullivan began the year on the Tewaaraton Award Watch List.
Jack Of All Trades
Junior All-American and Tewaaraton Award Watch List member Margaret Smith has shown that she can do just about everything on the field so far this season as she has scored 14 goals, collected 27 ground balls and 34 draw controls and caused 24 turnovers ... in a 13-8 home win over Ohio State, the Westminster, Md., native had a monster game, scoring four goals on five shots, collecting four ground balls and three draw controls and causing five turnovers ... for efforts for the week of Feb. 25 - March 3, Smith earned BIG EAST Defensive Player of the Week honors.
Seniors Leading On Offense
Seniors Jenny Granger and Jaimie Morrison and have shown so far this season that they are the leaders of the Irish offensive attack ... they sit one and two on the team in points, goals and assists as Granger has 47 points (29G, 18A), while Morrison has 41 points (23G, 18A) ... Morrison has been placed on the BIG EAST's Weekly Honor Roll three times after impressive performances ... the first was for the week of Feb. 25 - March 3 where she scored four goals and dished out four assists as ND went 2-0 ... the second was for the week of March 4-March 10 where she recorded six goals, two assists, three ground balls and a caused turnover in two Irish wins ... the final came after the Yorktown Heights, N.Y., native turned in a sterling performance in a 16-15, 2OT win at Louisville, recording nine points (4G, 5A) to tie for third in ND history for points in a game and tie for second in program history for points in a road game ... Granger has found herself on the weekly honor roll once, after scoring four goals and dished out three assists during a 2-0 weekend for the Irish against then-No. 19/RV Rutgers and Villanova March 22 and March 24 ... Granger is tied for eighth in assists per game (1.29), eighth in points per game (3.36) and ninth in goals per game (2.07) in the BIG EAST ... Morrison, meanwhile, is seventh in the league in assists per game (1.38) and 10th in points per game (3.15).
Senior Leader In The Cage
Senior goalie Ellie Hilling brings a wealth of experience to the Notre Dame defense as she is in her fourth year as starter ... 14 games into the 2013 season, Hilling is first in school goalie history in minutes played (4,001:58), games played (68), wins (43) and saves (515) ... she is also second in goals against average (9.84) and seventh in save percentage (.440) ... last year the Rochester, N.Y., native had seven games with 10-plus saves, including a career-high 16 in wins over Ohio State and Georgetown ... this year she has five games with 10 or more saves, including stopping 12 shots in a 10-8 win at Duquesne, 12 more in a 14-2 win over Villanova and a season-high 14 in a 13-12 win over then-No. 8/8 Georgetown ... for her efforts against Rutgers and Villanova, where she allowed an average of four goals a game and produced a .714 save percentage in the two wins, Hilling earned a spot on the BIG EAST's Weekly Honor Roll for the first time this season ... after recording 26 total saves in a 14-13 2OT loss to Loyola and the win over the Hoyas, Hilling reemerged on the BIG EAST Weekly Honor Roll ... she has stopped five or more shots in 11 of the 14 games and has two or more ground balls in eight games including seven of the last 10, including tying her career high with six against Georgetown.
The Irish have been fortunate to see quality minutes from a plethora of freshmen so far this season ... Stephanie Toy leads all freshmen with 10 goals, while Stephanie Peragallo has 31 ground balls, five draw controls and 25 caused turnovers ... those numbers place her tied for second on the team in GBs and second in CTs ... others seeing big minutes on the field are Kiera McMullan (5G, 4A), Brie Custis (4G, 4A, 10 DC) and most recently Hanna Hartman, who had five ground balls and a caused turnover against the Hoyas April 14 ... Toy, Custis and Peragallo have played in all 14 games.
Jenny Granger: 87 career goals (10th place); 45 career assists (10th place) ... senior Jaimie Morrison (69 career goals) and juniors Kaitlyn Brosco (60 career goals) and Lindsay Powell (57 career goals) aren't far behind ... Ellie Hilling: 149 career ground balls (fourth place) ... Margaret Smith: 102 draw controls (8th place); 70 caused turnovers (eighth place) ... sophomore Barbara Sullivan isn't far behind in caused turnovers (61) after causing 32 as a freshman and 29 so far this season and draw controls (86) after collecting 32 last year and 54 so far this season.
NCAA Stats Watch
Checking around the NCAA top 25, several Irish performers find their name in the national rankings ... goalie Ellie Hilling is 24th in goals-against average (8.96) and eighth in save percentage (.476) ... sophomore defender Barbara Sullivan is second in ground balls per game (3.21), eighth in caused turnovers a game (2.07) and 24th in draw controls per game (3.86) ... junior midfielder Margaret Smith is 19th in caused turnovers per game (1.71), while freshman defender Stephanie Peragallo sits 16th (1.79) ... as a team the Irish are 24th in scoring offense with 12.71 goals per game and in scoring defense, allowing only 8.93 goals per game ... the scoring margin of 3.79 goals per game puts ND 19th ... the Irish are also sixth in caused turnovers per game (10.57) and 10th in ground balls per game (18.64).
BIG EAST Stats Watch
Notre Dame is first in the BIG EAST in assists per game (6.43), ground balls per game (18.64), caused turnovers per game (10.57) and save percentage (.479) ... individually, Lauren Sullivan is tied for first in game-winning goals (4) and Barbara Sullivan is first in ground balls per game (3.21) and caused turnovers per game (2.07) ... the Irish have three players in the top five in caused turnovers per game ... B. Sullivan (1st - 2.07), Peragallo (3rd - 1.79) and Smith (4th - 1.71).
The matchups at Stanford, at Louisville, at No. 5/5 Syracuse and at No. 19/RV UConn and the home contests against No. 13/18 Ohio State, No. 19/RV Rutgers, No. 17/20 Loyola and No. 8/8 Georgetown were just eight of the many tough challenges for ND during the regular season ... the Irish are playing five teams that ended 2012 ranked (Ohio State, Loyola, Georgetown, Northwestern and Syracuse) and three NCAA Championship teams (Loyola, Syracuse, Northwestern) ... Northwestern won the title, Syracuse was runner up and Loyola made the quarterfinals ... fortunately all but the Syracuse game will be in the friendly confines of Arlotta Stadium or the Loftus Sports Center ... Notre Dame is currently in a stretch where it is playing five ranked teams in a row - Loyola, Georgetown, Syracuse, Connecticut and Northwestern ... in the April 22 deBeer Media Poll, six Irish opponents show up in the rankings - No. 4 Northwestern, No. 5 Syracuse, No. 7 Georgetown, No. 16 UConn, No. 17 Loyola and No. 19 Stanford ... Ohio State is receiving votes.
Second Year For Halfpenny
The transition year from William & Mary to Notre Dame is over for second-year head coach Christine Halfpenny, although she didn't seem to have too much trouble transitioning in her first season, as the Irish jumped out to an 8-0 start on their way to a 13-5 season in which they qualified for the BIG EAST and NCAA Championships ... the 13 regular-season wins tied for first in school history, while the 13 wins overall tied for third in school history ... this year ND got off to an 10-0 start and is currently 11-3, which puts her 24-8 (.750) through 32 games leading the team.
Starting The Season Undefeated
Notre Dame jumped out to a 10-0 start for only the second time in school history ... the Irish joined the 2004 (10-0) in that exclusive club ... the Irish were one of the final two teams to begin the year unbeaten along with No. 1 Maryland (16-0) ... the strong start marks the second year in a row that head coach Christine Halfpenny has gotten her team off on the right foot ... last year ND opened the 2012 campaign at 8-0 ... the Irish also began the BIG EAST season at 4-0, which tied the 2002 squad for the best start in conference play.
Sophomore Barbara Sullivan played a key roll in Notre Dame's 12-11 come-from-behind win over Vanderbilt as she dominated the draw control in the second half ... the Garden City, N.Y., native collected nine to tie a school record for draw controls in a game ... she also had a team-high five ground balls ... for her efforts she was named to the BIG EAST Weekly Honor Roll for the second consecutive week.
A Game For The Ages
Sullivan turned in arguably one of the best games by a defender in Notre Dame history against Boston University (March 9) as she tallied a career-high eight ground balls and a career-high five turnovers ... she also added two draw controls and dished out her first career assist ... one memorable play to start the second half saw Sullivan cause a turnover, claim the ensuing ground ball, dart several yards up the field and pass the pall to teammate Jaimie Morrison, who put the ball in the back of the net just 45 seconds into the half to begin the Irish comeback ... for her efforts she earned a spot on the BIG EAST Weekly Honor Roll.
In Notre Dame's 22-1 win over Detroit March 5 a pair of school records were reached as the Irish handled the Titans ... the 22 goals tied the school record for goals in a home game ... the 21 goal margin of victory was the most in program history, topping last year's Senior Day win over Cincinnati (22-2) ... the one goal allowed tied for the second fewest in school history ... the Irish defeated Loyola, 11-1, in 2007 and shut out Villanova, 16-0, in 2010.
Home Openers Friendly For The Irish
With a 13-8 win over No. 13/18 Ohio State Feb. 27, Notre Dame improved to 11-6 all-time in home openers ... Notre Dame has now won both home openers under second-year head coach Christine Halfpenny ... last year the Irish defeated No. 6 Stanford, 17-14.
Tewaaraton Award Watch List
Junior Margaret Smith and sophomore Barbara Sullivan were named to the Tewaaraton Award Watch List Feb. 23 ... the duo are on the list with 50 fellow student-athletes, including 45 from Division I schools ... the pair was only two of seven from BIG EAST schools ... the award goes to the best player in women's lacrosse ... last year Maggie Tamasitis was named a Tewaaraton Award Nominee.
Another Season-Opening Win
Notre Dame improved to 15-2 all-time in season openers with its 12-10 win over Stanford Feb. 16.
For her efforts on the defensive end in Notre Dame's win over Stanford, freshman Stephanie Peragallo earned BIG EAST Defensive Player of the Week honors ... she was the first Irish player to earn defensive player of the week accolades since Ellie Hilling in 2012 after a monster 13-save, six-ground ball and two-caused turnover performance at Ohio State.
Head coach Christine Halfpenny named senior Jenny Granger and junior Margaret Smith as co-captains of this year's squad ... Granger, a three-time monogram winner, scored 20 goals, dished out 12 assists, scooped up 14 ground balls and 10 draw controls and caused eight turnovers last season ... Smith, a preseason all-BIG EAST selection, is coming off a sophomore campaign where she was named third team IWLCA All-American and first team all-BIG EAST and IWLCA West/Midwest all-region after collecting 37 ground balls and 47 draw controls and causing 31 turnovers.
Trio Honored By BIG EAST
Juniors Lindsay Powell and Margaret Smith and sophomore Barbara Sullivan were named to the preseason all-BIG EAST team ... Smith and Sullivan were unanimous selections ... Powell was a second team all-BIG EAST and IWLCA West/Midwest all-region performer last year ... Smith was an IWLCA third team All-American and a first team all-BIG EAST and IWLCA West/Midwest all-region honoree ... Sullivan was a first team IWLCA West/Midwest all-region and second team all-BIG EAST performer.
Among the 10 freshmen that are seeing their first action for Notre Dame in the spring, are a pair of standouts that were named to Lacrosse Magazine's "Freshman 15" ... the two Stephanies, Stephanie Toy and Stephanie Peragallo, were each honored by the magazine back in September.
Junior Margaret Smith, sophomore Barbara Sullivan and assistant coach Jill Byers all reached the final round of qualifying for the US National Team this summer ... Byers played for four years on Team USA, while Sullivan was on the 2011 U.S. women's national under-19 team that won a gold medal at the U-19 Women's Lacrosse World Championship in Hanover, Germany.
Replacing An Impressive Senior Class
When eight student-athletes concluded their eligibility last season, the Irish lost some talented performers ... among the most notable losses were IWLCA second team All-American Maggie Tamasitis and IWLCA second team West/Midwest all-region performer Megan Sullivan ... Tamasitis ended her career as the school's all-time leader in assists in a half, game, season and career and finished fourth in points ... last year Tamasitis had 82 of Notre Dame's 348 points or almost 24% ... Sullivan had a breakout senior year by doing a little bit of everything in the middle of the field ... she scored 24 goals, collected 23 ground balls and 27 draw controls and caused 15 turnovers ... Sullivan earned second team all-BIG EAST in addition to all-region accolades, while Tamasitis was named first team in both categories.
Homecoming For A Pair Of ND Lacrosse Alums
With the addition of new assistants Jill Byers and Jake Marmul, head coach Christine Halfpenny brought in two new coaches with deep Notre Dame roots. Byers, a four-time All-American, is a 2009 graduate that still holds a plethora of school records including goals and points in a career ... Marmul, a 2011 graduate, played for the men's team and specialized in the face off.
Follow The Irish
Fans can follow the Irish in a multitude of ways through social media ... ND WLAX is on Facebook at facebook.com/NDWLAX ... on Twitter (@NDWomensLax) ... coach Halfpenny is also on Twitter (@NDcoachPenny) ... on the web at UND.com/sports/w-lacros/nd-wlacros-body.html ... on the blogs at ndlacrosse.wordpress.com ... speaking of the blogs, senior Emily Conner will piggy back her summer series "Lax In The City" with a season-long blog entitled "No Time To ReLAX."