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Thursday, June 20, 2024
The Observer

Notre Dame faces Virginia on the road in top-15 matchup

The No. 11 Notre Dame women’s lacrosse team is back in action Saturday against the No. 12 Virginia Cavaliers. The Irish have had mixed results against ranked opponents this season. Notre Dame won handily against No. 18 Duke 14-6, but lost to No. 1 Syracuse and No 2. Northwestern 15-7 and 18-14, respectively. 

The ACC is the toughest conference in NCAA Division I lacrosse, but the Irish have made their presence known. However, Virginia is right on Notre Dame’s tail. The Cavaliers will look to overpass the Irish this weekend in both the ACC and national rankings. Both teams have a deadly roster and will look to use this game to prove that they deserve their respective rankings. 

On the offensive, Notre Dame is led by senior midfielder Kasey Choma and senior attackers Madison Ahern and Jackie Wolak. Choma, who was recently named ACC Offensive Player of the Week, leads the team with 29 goals on the season. Ahern follows her with 23 goals on the year. Wolak is third with 19 goals so far and sits at the top by far in assists (22). Wolak accounts for 38% of the team's assists, with Ahern accounting for the second most with only nine. 

This attacking trio is proving to be difficult to stop. In addition, junior midfielder Kelly Denes continues to control draws, ensuring the Irish get the ball. The Irish are not just killers on offense but are a defensive force as well. In their 14-1 win against Virginia Tech, the Irish held the Hokies to tying their lowest goal total in program history. 

The Irish must be prepared to play a full 60 minutes if they hope to come on top on Saturday. The Cavaliers have four players who have scored over 20 goals for the season. To stop the Cavaliers, the Irish must lock down Ashlyn McGovern, who has a whopping 40 goals on the season. However, she only marks one assist. If she gets the ball, she is going to goal. If the Irish can block the ball from her stick, they will have a leg up on the game.

Unlike Notre Dame, the Cavaliers are much more independent. While Notre Dame has Wolak, a threat both to the goal as well as in assists, the Cavaliers have players who are either heavy scorers or heavy with assists. Virginia’s Morgan Schwab has 26 assists, but only 10 goals on the season. In comparison, the Irish are much more diverse with both their assists and their goal-scorers. 

This matchup will be a litmus test for these ACC teams moving forward. Notre Dame and Virginia are tied for third in the ACC, behind only Syracuse and North Carolina. So far, Virginia has lost to No. 3 UNC (17-12) and beat No. 17 Princeton (20-11) in ranked contests. 

A top-15 matchup is always tough for both sides, but Notre Dame versus Virginia will prove to be even more difficult. With both teams even in the standings, this will surely be a heated game. Virginia will look to defend its home turf while Notre Dame will look to prove its higher ranking. 

Catch the matchup on Saturday in Charlottesville, Virginia. The game will start at noon and will be available on the ACC Network.