May 1, 2009

W. Lax Hosts Notre Dame for Senior Day

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Forsake slope day? Most students would say never, but members of the women’s lacrosse team are not most students. The players will be preparing for their final game of the season and Senior Day on Saturday at Schoellkopf field against one of their greatest rivals, Notre Dame.
“We’re really excited to play them,” said senior defender Kelly Hansen. “The Notre Dame team has taken the senior class out of the tournament twice. There’s a lot of animosity between us… it gets us ready for a strong fight,” she said.
Last year, the Irish effectively crushed the Red’s chance at making it to the playoffs with a 15-11 win in South Bend, Ind. Notre Dame also dealt Cornell a blow in 2006, with a victory that knocked the Red out of the first round of the NCAA tournament. Cornell’s last win against the Irish was four years ago at Schoellkopf.
Although the Red’s season will end Saturday no matter the outcome, Cornell will be fighting for something other than postseason — their pride.
Last weekend Cornell (9-6, 3-4 Ivy) suffered an upset loss at the hands of Ancient Eight opponent, Harvard (5-10, 2-5 Ivy).
“Though we may not have postseason hopes, we still have a lot to prove to ourselves…how hard we want to play and how passionate we are about competing,” said head coach Jenny Graap ’86.
“We’re coming off a game where we didn’t feel that we brought our best. The good news is that we have an opportunity to set the record straight,” said Graap. She noted that the Red, 5-2 on Schoellkopf field, takes a lot of pride in playing at home.
“I think [the game] just showed us how precious Schoellkopf field is,” said Hansen commenting on the disappointing game against the Crimson. “We’ve regrouped this week…we have to fight for every whistle and get the grub stats. We’re definitely ready for this Saturday, it’s going to be a good competition.”
No. 6 Notre Dame certainly stands out as a formidable opponent. The Fighting Irish recently took home the Big East tournament trophy, a first for their women’s lacrosse program. To clinch the victory, Notre Dame outplayed both Syracuse and Georgetown, thereby securing an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.
Although the fighting Irish are typically known for their dynamic attack, averaging 15.6 goals per game, their recent tournament also showcased their defensive strengths. Senior goalkeeper Erin Goodman, named Inside Lacrosse Division I Player of the Week, led the Irish to the title, recording a combined 16 saves against Syracuse and Georgetown. Senior defender Shannon Burke was also accredited for Notre Dame’s winning performance, earning the Defensive Player of the Week award.
In light of their recent win, the Notre Dame team was given two days off from practice. However, head coach Tracy Coyne maintains that this does not mean they are making light of their last season match against Cornell.
“We have a lot of respect for Cornell. They’re really competitive, and we’ve had chance to see the film of Cornell vs. Syracuse, and we are prepared,” said Coyne.
The outcome of this Saturday’s game will determine seeding going into the NCAA tournament and where Notre Dame will play its first round.
“We want a game at home,” said Coyne.
She added that their recent Big East title win would not distract her team from bringing the same intensity and focus that they have had throughout the season.
While the Irish are riding a wave of momentum, they won’t shock the Red, who has experience with defeating a top-10 team, into submission. Cornell was able to hold No. 10 Vanderbilt, also averaging over 15 goals per game, to only four goals. Notre Dame fell to Vanderbilt 18-11.
Graap noted that leadership and confidence would be important factors, especially with injuries to key players on the team.
“We’ve had to move beyond that and we’re fortunate to have a large squad that has a lot of young players that are ready to step up and have shown that they can step up,” said Graap.
Commenting on what it will take to defeat the Irish, Hansen said: “I think we just need to click as a unit. When everything comes together we’re amazing and no one can beat us …we know what it feels like and we’re going to try to recapture it this Saturday.”
In looking toward her final collegiate match, she noted another significance to the game against the Irish.
“It’s the last time our 2009 team will play together…we really want to make it a memorable experience and have positive memories,” she said. “We’re not going to take anything for granted, not only for ourselves (the seniors) but for the entire team. If we set the precedent now, it’ll motivate the girls to come back strong as a 2010 unit.”