March 2, 2007

Lacrosse Teams to Battle Fighting Irish

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After splitting a pair of games to open its season last week, the No. 11 women’s lacrosse team (1-1) will have its first test against a ranked opponent as it welcomes an all too familiar No. 5 Notre Dame (2-1) squad to Schoellkopf Field tomorrow.

[img_assist|nid=21804|title=Charlotte’s web.|desc=Junior attacker Charlotte Schmidlapp charges down the field in the Red’s 11-10 overtime loss to Rutgers on Feb. 24.|link=node|align=left|width=99|height=100]

“We’re pretty familiar with a number of their standout players,” said head coach Jenny Graap ’86. “We have strong rivalry with them — we always play them early in the season.”

These two teams battled each other twice a year ago — both at Notre Dame — including a 16-8 Irish victory in the first round of the NCAA tournament. In that game, Cornell played without injured All-America candidates Margaux Viola and Anne Riordan and was unable to reign in the Notre Dame attack.

In the end, Irish standouts Crysti Foote and Jilly Byers each tallied four goals, while teammate Caitlin McKinney added three of her own. Meanwhile, junior Noelle Dowd scored four goals in one of the best collegiate performances of her career.

“There’s some memory of having lost to them last year,” Graap said. “But it’s a new year and we’re both fielding new teams.”

Even with both teams slightly changed from last season, many of the stars of those contests should play major roles in deciding tomorrow’s outcome. Byers and Mckinney are both back for Notre Dame and co-led the Irish with nine points apiece through the team’s first two games. Cornell will also have to watch out for the play-making skills of Lena Zentrgraf, who leads the Irish with four assists.

Meanwhile, the Red will counter with a trio of outstanding junior attackers and midfielders. Dowd continued her strong play from last year’s NCAA tournament into this season, already having tallied nine goals and two assists through the Red’s first two contests.

Those stats, however, are not good enough to lead the team in points. Instead, that honor goes to Tewaaraton Trophy candidate Courtney Farrell who has 13 points on the season, including a team-high seven assists. Meanwhile, classmate Katherine Simmons appears to have her stride as well after a five-goal outburst in the Red’s most recent 19-7 win over Colgate.

“We’ve gotten good production form several players, but we need to work on becoming more multi-faceted,” Graap said. “We certainly have the ability to get more people involved on offense and that should help our overall production.”

Though tomorrow’s game will be the first match against a ranked Cornell opponent, it will be Notre Dame’s fourth. The Irish opened up its season with a punishing non-conference schedule with games against No. 12 James Madison, No. 18 Stanford and No. 1 Northwestern before this one.

After eking out overtime victories against both the Dukes, 10-9, and the Cardinal, 12-11, Notre Dame lost to the defending national champion Wildcats yesterday, 19-9.

Meanwhile, the Red are also no stranger to the high pressure of overtime after dropping a heartbreaking 11-10 loss to Rutgers last weekend. Battling from behind, the Red rallied from a 7-1 deficit to take the lead twice in that contest, but could not hold on for the victory.

Cornell again came out slight flat-footed in its second contest against Colgate, going down 2-0 early. However, the team should some improvement in its play as it quickly recovered to take a 9-4 halftime lead and never looked back.

“We were pleased with our draw control and rhythm on offense in that game,” Graap said. “We still need to work on getting more ground balls. We’ve lost that statistic in both of our games so far … Winning the ground balls tomorrow will be crucial.”