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Wednesday, May 29, 2024
The Observer

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Irish defeat No. 7 seed Clemson 14-12, reach ACC Tournament semifinal

Notre Dame defeats Clemson Tigers by two goals in ACC quarterfinal

One of Note Dame’s best women’s lacrosse teams in the history of the program came into the ACC Tournament with high expectations, finishing the season with a 7-2 conference record and earning the No. 2 seed.

After No. 7 seed Clemson took down No. 10 seed Pittsburgh 18-15 in the first round on Sunday, the Tigers prepared to face the Irish in Wednesday’s quarterfinal. The game was be a rematch of the 14-13 regular season thriller that Notre Dame pulled out in double overtime on March 22. Similar to the first matchup, Wednesday’s rematch was just as high-scoring and competitive.

The Tigers came out the gates unafraid. After a free position goal from graduate student attacker Madison Ahern got the scoring started, Clemson responded with three consecutive goals, including two from Regan Byrne. Ahern responded with her second of the day to make it 3-2, but the Tigers quickly reopened a two-goal lead one minute later courtesy of Hanna Hilcoff’s goal. With a little over a minute remaining in the first quarter, graduate student midfielder Kasey Choma scored on an assist from attacker Jackie Wolak. The graduate students, alongside Ahern, have dominated all season and helped the Irish withstand Clemson’s strong start in the first.

In a high-scoring second quarter, both teams went back and forth, the offensive stars shining. After the Tigers opened up a 7-5 lead with a little over five minutes remaining, the Irish ripped off five unanswered goals to take a commanding 10-7 lead into the half, the largest lead of the game for either team at that point. The exclamation mark came with a little over two seconds remaining when Wolak found Ahern, who went behind the back to score her fourth goal of the day. 

Wolak kept the momentum going out of the halftime break, scoring her third goal of the day and extending the Irish run to six unanswered goals. In a lower-scoring second half, the Irish defense protected the lead pretty comfortably for the remainder of the game. After Clemson got the deficit back down to two goals at 12-10, the Irish responded by opening up the fourth quarter with two goals in a row, including Wolak’s fourth. After Hilcoff got her hat trick to cut the lead to three before the nine-minute mark, both teams went on an extended scoring drought. The Tigers grabbed a consolation goal with 39 seconds remaining, and the game finished 14-12, a similar scoreline to the regular-season matchup but with far less drama.

While the Irish were undoubtedly tested in this game, as they have been all season, they rode the performance of their star trio of graduate students in Wolak, Choma and Ahern. The three combined for 13 points and accounted for nine of Notre Dame’s 14 goals. Wolak’s seven points on four goals and three assists were all game-highs.

Christine Halfpenny’s team will now look ahead to the ACC semifinal against No. 3 Boston College, which will take place on April 26 at 8 p.m. with ACC Network providing the broadcast.