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Sunday, April 21, 2024
The Observer

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Irish finish trip with weekend sweep, return home for Pitt

Notre Dame women's lacrosse has won four straight games for the second time this year

When its schedule tightens up, Notre Dame women’s lacrosse crowds the win column. It happened in mid-February, with the Irish turning four home games in nine days -- including a tilt with No. 1 Northwestern -- into a 4-0 start to the season. 

After a 1-2 beginning to ACC play, Notre Dame has done it again in the innards of March. The Irish just returned from a four-game road trip that spanned 11 days and carried them all over the Eastern Seaboard. 

Their record during that stretch? A clean 4-0 once again. 

With a dichotomous weekend of wins in the rearview mirror, Notre Dame welcomes Pittsburgh to South Bend on Saturday. Now ranked sixth in the nation, the Irish enter their Easter Break matchup with momentum intensified by clutch lacrosse at Clemson and masterful play at Mercer.

Doherty’s déjà vu goal denies Clemson’s upset bid

The lacrosse gods must have a schedule set for senior midfielder Mary Kelly Doherty. 

Over the last two weeks, every time Notre Dame has reached the brink of a loss on the road, Doherty has come to the rescue. She scored the game-winning inside the final 40 seconds for a top-25 win on March 13 at Brown. Three days later, she did the same (with 15 seconds remaining) for Notre Dame’s first win at Boston College in 21 years.

And of course, as the Irish went down to the wire Friday night at Clemson, Doherty delivered again. Only this time, she did it much later — in double overtime.

A 13-13 stalemate between the Irish and Tigers carried into a sixth period, in which Notre Dame took immediate possession after the first sudden-death period went scoreless. Eventually, with 13 seconds on the shot timer, the ball found Doherty on the perimeter. Yet to register a point in 74 minutes of game time, she sped down to the edge of the 8-meter arc, ripping a shot that zipped inside the far post. 

The critical goal allowed Notre Dame to escape a Clemson team that tested the Irish from start to finish. The Tigers opened up a 3-1 lead early, but the visitors immediately pulled back into a tie, setting the tone for a binding ACC contest. At the end of the first, Clemson led 4-3, with all three Irish goals coming via the free position shot.

As usual, Notre Dame utilized its experienced “big three” to find success midway through the match. Graduate attacker Madison Ahern, who ended the night with her sixth hat trick of the season, tallied back-to-back goals for a 6-5 Irish edge halfway through the second quarter. Soon after, graduate attacker Jackie Wolak deposited one of her four goals to put Notre Dame ahead by two.

With 12:01 to play in the fourth, another four-goal producer finished her night of scoring in grand style. Graduate midfielder Kasey Choma took an Ahern feed and went behind the back to hand Notre Dame its largest lead of the night at 12-8. Choma’s crafty goal would later crack the SportsCenter Top 10, checking in at No. 9.

Most of regulation time’s remaining highlights, however, belonged to Kayla Macleod and Clemson. The freshman evaporated Notre Dame’s sizable lead with three consecutive goals, including two on free-position looks. Macleod’s game-high fifth marker leveled the score at 12-12, raising the stakes with under six minutes to play.

Wolak and Clemson’s Claire Bockstie would then trade goals, bringing the count to 13-13. With any given shot having a chance to win the game, both goalkeepers locked in and made massive saves late. Irish senior Lilly Callahan executed one of her 10 stops with under 90 seconds remaining in regulation. Then Clemson’s Emily Lamparter, who finished with 11 saves, used her best against Wolak on a tight chance with 25 seconds to play in the first overtime.

But Lamparter had no answer for Doherty in the second overtime, ending a terrific battle in the ACC.

Tierney tallies first Irish hat trick in muzzling of Mercer

For Notre Dame, a fervorous Friday gave way to a stress-free Sunday at Mercer. The Irish trailed the Bears for all of 101 seconds, using a 16-2 run to win their road trip finale 20-6.

Notre Dame’s dominant showing started in the draw circle, a place where the team thrives when at its best. Four different Irish players controlled four or more draws, creating a 22-5 advantage for the visitors. As Mercer wore down defensively, that success led to a 13-goal second half for Notre Dame.

One of the team’s top three draw specialists, however, made no contributions to the wide margin in the circle. Instead, graduate student Arden Tierney lived up to the other half of her position: attacker. The Richmond transfer got rich on goals, scoring three on the day for her first hat trick with Notre Dame.

Three more Irish players – Ahern, Choma and senior midfielder Keelin Schlageter – would add their own trios of goals. Schlageter’s troupe of tallies represented the first hat trick of her career, increasing her scoring total for the season by 50%. Wolak contributed two goals with one assist, eclipsing 50 points on the year and continuing her run as Notre Dame’s top scorer.

Pitt off to problematic start in ACC play

Once again, Notre Dame will face an in-conference team relatively new to the women’s lacrosse scene this weekend. The third-year Pitt Panthers opened play a season earlier than Clemson but have struggled to compete as quickly as the Tigers. Pittsburgh went winless in league play last season, losing a 17-6 contest to Notre Dame in mid-April.

Pitt’s third season under Emily Boissonneault has yielded similar results, with the Panthers off to an 0-5 start within the ACC. Overall, the Panthers carry a 3-8 mark with defeats of Duquesne, Detroit Mercy and Kent State. 

Last time out, Pitt nearly found its first conference win at home. The Panthers entered the fourth quarter of their matchup with Virginia Tech trailing by a goal, but the Hokies blanked Pitt across the final 15 minutes to win 13-9. Similarly, Duke erased a 9-6 Panther lead for a 13-11 victory in its March 9 matchup with Pitt.

Like Notre Dame, Pitt’s offensive engine runs on a well-defined trio of scorers. Jenna Hendrickson (25), Sydney Naylor (22) and Ava Washington (22) have combined for 69 of the team’s 135 goals, with Hendrickson having struck for multiple goals in seven straight contests.

Notre Dame and Pitt will meet at 11 a.m. on Saturday as the first leg of a lacrosse doubleheader in South Bend.