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Tuesday, June 18, 2024
The Observer

Ahern, Choma, Deehan bounce back from quarterfinals fall, lead Irish into 2022 season

Image Sources: ND Athletics

After a devastating loss to Boston College in the NCAA quarterfinals last year, the Notre Dame women’s lacrosse team is ready to come back swinging. With cancellations due to the COVID-19 pandemic sprinkled throughout the past two seasons, the team is finally ready to get back to normal and do what they do best. 

When asked about the effect the pandemic will have on this year’s season, junior attack Madison Ahern expressed optimism.

“I think a big thing that was talked about this year is that this is our first season that is going to be normal,” she said. “So far, everything has been normal, and we are just very excited to put COVID away and focus on our game.” 

Fellow teammate junior midfielder Kasey Choma also chimed in.

“We can never take anything for granted because last year we couldn’t even have team meals or hang out outside of practice,” she said. “Now you don’t have to focus on COVID or worry about getting quarantined. We can now just fully focus on having our first normal season, so we are just really pumped about that.” 

In the 2022 ACC Preseason Coaches Poll, Notre Dame ranked fourth with 56 points, only behind Boston College (76), North Carolina (74) and Syracuse (63). The Irish finished last season 11-7, all seven of those losses belonging to the aforementioned teams. However, Notre Dame has a chance for redemption, and the women are eager for it. 

“Something we’ve been talking about this year is that every team that we are playing is in our way of where we want to go,” said Ahern. “And I think BC is just one of those teams we have to beat to get to where we want to be.” 

Ahern, Choma and graduate student goalie Bridget Deehan were recently selected for the Preseason All-ACC team. Ahern has played a crucial role in previous seasons, and will surely be a force to be reckoned with in this upcoming one. Last season, Ahern scored a total of 32 goals and 17 assists. She started in all 17 contests and scored at least one goal in 16 of them, including four hat tricks. She was ranked the No. 35 player in men’s and women’s college lacrosse, by the U.S. Lacrosse Magazine in 2021. As an upperclassman, she expressed a wish to continue to work on her leadership both on and off the field. 

Ahern is not the only threat teams need to watch out for. Choma and junior attack Jackie Wolak are also key players for the Irish. In the 2021 season, Choma led the team in goals (45) and finished second in points (50). As a freshman, even with the season cut short, she scored the team-high of 22 goals in the seven games played.  Wolak was last season’s points leader with 31 goals and a team high of 20 assists.  

Other key players from the Irish attack are graduate student Maddie Howe, who had 49 points last season, and senior midfielder Madison Mote, who had 11 goals. The returning Irish defense is also strong, with Deehan as goalie and senior defender Meaghan Scutaro with eight ground balls last season and 10 caused turnovers. 

While there surely is great talent returning from previous seasons, both Choma and Ahern named multiple players to look out for that have yet to have their moment to shine. 

Grace Weigand was ranked No. 15 out of the recruited class this season, according to Inside Lacrosse. Choma listed her as the player to watch.

“She’s someone who pushes you no matter what class,” Choma said. “We always look at each other as class blind, but Grace is someone who makes every person on our team better. She raises the standards at practice and is always going a hundred miles per hour. Whether she’s succeeding or failing, it’s at a hundred miles per hour.” 

Ahern listed two sophomores that she said have yet to break out.

“Last year we had a lot of grad students just because of of COVID, and they didn’t get to play too much,” she said. “I think they’ve really stepped up this year and they’re gonna be great contributors for us.”

The two sophomores she referenced are midfielder Kelly Denes and defender Aine Maseker. 

“Both of them are always pushing us to be better,” she continued. “Especially Aine — she is always challenging me in practice to beat her and it makes me better and it makes her better.”

Choma spoke on their evolving roles this season, especially in terms of team leadership.

“Now that we’re upperclassmen, a big goal of ours is our leadership all over the field and kind of taking these younger girls under our wing like previous upperclassmen have done in the past,” Choma said. 

Looking at their tough schedule this semester, strong leadership and grit is most definitely needed. The Irish will get a much-needed rematch against BC, North Carolina and Syracuse, as well as face off against other highly ranked teams such as No. 5 Northwestern, No. 13 Duke and No. 16 Jacksonville. With incoming talent, as well as the strong recurring players, the Notre Dame women’s lacrosse team not only has a strong chance of going to the NCAA tournament this year, but also of making it all the way. 

The kick-off of the 2022 season is Friday at 7 p.m. when the Irish will play Central Michigan in the Loftus Sports Center.