After an impressive 15-8 win at Colgate in its season opener Wednesday, the No. 18 women’s lacrosse team will travel cross-country this weekend to take on an explosive No. 17 Notre Dame squad.
“It should be a formidable challenge,” said Cornell head coach Jenny Graap ’86. “They will already have had three games under their belts.”
Sporting a 2-0 record heading into yesterday’s game against Ohio, the Fighting Irish have played strong in the early going. In a West Coast trip last weekend, the team demolished Berkeley, 23-11, before hanging on for a 12-11 triple-overtime victory at Stanford.
“[Notre Dame’s] strength is really in its offense,” Graap said. “Their numbers are pretty staggering … They have several key players and they are all at attack or middle attack.”
Senior Crysti Foote, an All-Big East and third-team All-America selection a year ago, leads the Irish attack with 15 points and 12 goals. Underclassmen Jill Byers and Caitlin McKinney are also key cogs in the Notre Dame offense. Byers is second on the team in both points (13) and goals (10), while McKinney paces her squad with six assists.
“Byers has had a really outstanding beginning to her career, and McKinney is on the U.S. development team,” Graap said.
Facing such a volatile offense, strong defense should prove to be one of Cornell’s keys to the game. This is no different than against Colgate, as the Red limited the Red Raiders’ attack to just one score in the second half en route to the victory.
Graap was pleased with the performances that junior defenders Ashleigh Smith and Anne Riordan put together for the Red. Smith collected four ground balls and caused two turnovers, while Riordan held Colgate’s leading scorer to just two goals while shadowing her all over the field.
Meanwhile, as Cornell’s defense came on later in the game, its attack did as well. The Red scored eight consecutive second-half goals to turn a 7-7 halftime score into the winning margin.
Even more impressive, the Red showed off its depth with eight different players registering points.
“We have really good depth all over the field,” Graap said. “It really helps us stay fresh. Last year, we played the same unit a lot and they would get tired at the end of the game.”
Despite not starting, junior Lindsey Moore led Cornell in points with two goals and four assists. Junior Margaux Viola and sophomore Noelle Dowd also were large contributors for the Red, combining for nine points and seven scores.
Overall, Graap felt proud of her team’s play – especially with the way in which it improved as the game moved a long.
“We definitely got over some jitters and came together as a team In the first half, we were really working hard as individuals, but there wasn’t much cohesion as a team,” Graap said. “We started working well together later in the game. We showed a lot of good teamwork in the second half and it felt really great to get the win.”
Cornell will try to maintain the positive momentum from its first game as it travels to Notre Dame. With the game being played in an indoor facility with a surface different from the artificial turf that the Red is used to, the Irish should enjoy a home-field advantage.
“It is certainly a factor,” Graap said. “The bounce isn’t as significant as we’re used to. We’ve just got to get that out of our mind and focus on the game.”