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Friday, April 19, 2024
The Observer

Irish face off against Northwestern in first ranked match of the season

After a dominating game against San Diego State, the No. 14 Notre Dame women’s lacrosse team is back in action on Thursday, Feb. 16 to play against No. 5 Northwestern. The Wildcats are Notre Dame’s first ranked opponent on the season, and this matchup will mark as a litmus test for the Irish moving forward. 

While Notre Dame won their first game of the season, Northwestern dropped 16-15 to then No. 5 Syracuse on the road. Northwestern was favored at No. 4. While the score ultimately didn’t fall in their favor, the Wildcats were aggressive and goal hungry the entirety of the game. Now back at their home field, Northwestern is ready for Notre Dame’s arrival. 

Although Notre Dame is ranked lower than Northwestern, they have a roster stacked with talent, and a history of tough competition. Last season, the Irish lost five out of 10 of their losses by less than two points. Out of all of their losses, only two were unranked. 

One of these “one goal losses” came when Northwestern traveled to South Bend. The Wildcats came out hot, scoring five goals to Notre Dame’s two in the first quarter. The Irish then outscored Northwestern 5-4 in the second quarter, just to have the Wildcats outscore the Irish 5-4 in the third. It all came down to the fourth quarter, where the Irish tried to fight for victory but fell short, ultimately losing 17-16. 

Both teams have not graduated a lot, and return a high level of play and seniority. From last year, Northwestern has lost two of their highest scorers, Lauren Gilbert and Jill Girardi. However, they return their third highest scorer Erin Coykendall, as well as a load of other tough seniors the Irish will have to face. 

While Coykendall only scored once in the Wildcat’s match against Syracuse, Northwestern had two players score five goals: Izzy Scane and Madison Taylor.

Scane comes off of injury from 2022, however she has been an important player for the Wildcats in past seasons. Taylor is a freshman from Wantaugh, NY, and she is already making her presence known. 

Even with these two powerhouses working together, Notre Dame has a deep roster ready to fight. 

The senior trio of midfielder Kasey Choma, attack Madison Ahern and attack Jackie Wolak combined 215 points on last season. This year, they are also back and scoring early and often. Against San Diego State, Ahern had four goals and one assist, Wolak had two goals and two assists and Choma had three goals. They are accompanied by junior midfielder Mary Kelly Doherty, who also scored. 

Notre Dame has a tough defense as well, with their new starter junior goalie Lilly Callahan. Callahan had to sit idly waiting as former 2022 preseason All-ACC goalie Bridget Deehan had her moment. Now, Callahan is prepared to take the reins, and she proved it in her battle against San Diego State. Callahan had a .818 save percentage against San Diego State, and out of the fifteen games she has played for the Irish, she has tallied 30 saves with a .652 save percentage. However, Callahan faces her toughest challenge yet against Northwestern. 

Senior Emma Schettig is also a backbone to the Irish defense. On Friday, she won three ground balls and earned three draw controls. 

While their match against Northwestern will be the first ranked opponent of the season, it will definitely not be their last. The ACC is the toughest division in division one women’s lacrosse. The Irish face seven ranked opponents before they have a chance at the ACC tournament. While the Irish have had a losing streak against ranked opponents in the past, it has almost always been by close games. 

The Irish start off their journey to the ACC and NCAA tournament this Thursday against No. 5 Northwestern. Notre Dame will travel to Evanston, IL where the game will start 7 p.m. EST.