On Sunday, Notre Dame women’s lacrosse advanced to the NCAA Tournament Quarterfinals, upsetting No. 6 Florida on the Gators’ home turf. Notre Dame started the game with possession off the draw. But the Gators were pressuring hard in transition, forcing the Irish to take their time. After settling the ball, senior attacker Jackie Wolak drove to the left and dumped it to senior midfielder Madison Ahern to take an early lead in the first. However, this lead would not last long as the Gators would be able to tie the game less than two minutes later.
The teams soon learned that maintaining possession would be the name of the game. In the first half, the Notre Dame offense was sloppy and timid. Florida consistently forced turnovers and thrived on the counterattack, building a 3-1 lead.
With the Florida lead extending, Notre Dame called a timeout. When they returned, Wolak found the back of the net to stop the Florida scoring streak. The Irish were able to dodge through Florida’s defense and get good shots off. However, on top of Irish shots going wide, Gators goalie Sarah Reznick was able to lock down in the cage. She made five saves in the first quarter alone.
Even though the Irish could not score in the final seconds of the first, a yellow card would put the Irish up a man going into the second. Wolak did not let this opportunity pass her, and in the first minute of the second quarter, Wolak scored off a pass from senior midfielder Kasey Choma. Wolak then found herself one-on-one on the eight and beat Reznick for the hat trick. Even more importantly, the goal gave the Irish their first lead of the game since its opening moments.
Notre Dame won six out of the seven first draws, but Florida began to flip the script in that aspect, eventually turning a draw control into an equalizing goal. But junior midfielder Kristen Shanahan responded to give the Irish another lead. Shanahan’s goal mimicked that of Wolak’s a few goals earlier. Both players set up a one-on-one high on the eight meter and swiftly dodged their defender to the cage. However, just like after Wolak’s last goal, the Gators responded to knot the score at five all.
Junior midfielder Kelly Denes would again flip the score back in Notre Dame’s favor with a goal off a free position attempt. Unlike the previous times the Irish had the lead, Notre Dame was able build their lead. A crucial tally from junior midfielder Mary Kelly Doherty put the Irish up 7-5 with five minutes left in the half. A yellow card would put the Irish man up for the second time in the game. And Ahern promptly scored off of a penalty shot, extending the Irish to the biggest lead of the game so far at 8-5.
The Gators opened up the second half after by scoring on a free penalty shot to shorten the Irish lead to two. But only seconds after the Notre Dame penalty expired, Choma would notch her first goal of the night. Scoring would go back and forth in the third quarter as Florida attempted to cut down the Irish lead. However, Notre Dame answered back every time. Shanahan’s second goal of the night was followed by Ahern’s hat-trick tally, giving the Irish the largest lead so far with 11-7.
Florida, however, would fight to cut down the Irish lead to 12-10 by the end of the quarter. A green card within the first 10 seconds in the fourth gave the Irish a player advantage once again. And once again, the Irish capitalized on the opportunity. Choma set up a pick for her teammate, and Wolak wrapped around the crease unopposed and buried her shot.
A Gator interception would send Florida flying down the field, With three quick passes in transition, Florida cut the lead back down to two. While the Irish dominated on offense, the transition game was all Gators. Almost every time Florida had the ball in the middle, they could get it to their end in seconds, cutting through the Irish side.
Halfway through the final quarter, Choma scored off a penalty. Her hat trick goal extended the Irish lead to 15-11 with less than six minutes remaining. However, Florida scored four consecutive goals to tie the lead, evening the score with just 1:22 remaining.
The final 51 seconds of play were filled with chaos. A missed Florida opportunity gave the Irish the ball. And a green card put the Irish up for one more time in the game. With 10.1 seconds left in the game, senior attack Jane McAvoy found Choma in traffic, who buried her third goal of the quarter to put the Irish back ahead — this time for good.
Notre Dame now goes on to play the Boston College Eagles in the quarterfinals. The Irish have had their trouble playing Boston College this past year. However, the Eagles are not unbeatable, and the Irish will give it all to move on to the semis. The first time the two teams faced off this season, the Irish lost in the final seconds of the game, with the Eagles outsourcing them 5-1 in the fourth quarter. The second time the two teams met, the Eagles beat the Irish 9-4. Although the Irish were down the entire game, they put up a solid fight.
Both teams are extremely talented and will bring their A-game for their third match of the season. The teams will play on Thursday. The game will be livestreamed on ESPN.