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Saturday, May 25, 2024
The Observer

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Notre Dame women's lacrosse prepares for ACC Tournament showdown with Clemson

Older players expected to help Irish secure the win

Notre Dame women’s lacrosse will begin their quest for postseason success on Wednesday, squaring off against Clemson in the quarterfinals of the ACC tournament.

The Irish enter postseason play with a considerable amount of momentum, seeking an appropriate conclusion to a regular season that’s included a number of historic feats. This year’s iteration of Notre Dame women’s lacrosse already has the best regular season winning percentage of any finished season in program history. They recorded the first win over a No. 1-ranked team in program history when they beat Northwestern on February 16. But now they have their sights set on one more milestone: a first ACC championship.

To make a run in Charlotte though, they’ll have to start with a tough draw in a quality Tigers squad. The two teams met in March, in South Carolina. It was then that the Irish took part in their only overtime game of the season, a dramatic 14-13 victory sealed by a game-winning goal from senior Mary Kelly Doherty.

With the stakes for games heightened, expect Notre Dame to lean heavily on the experience of a veteran-laden core. Graduate students and seniors abound on this Irish roster — the team’s starting lineup in their final regular season game against Louisville contained ten, and four more entered the game off the bench.

The graduate student trio of Kasey Choma, Madison Ahern and Jackie Wolak spearhead the Irish attack, with help from another graduate student in Arden Tierney and senior Abby Maichin. Doherty teams up with fellow seniors Kelley Denes and Ali McHugh to add strong box-to-box play in the midfield. And graduate student Olivia Dooley is a key part of the defense that protects yet another senior Lilly Callahan in net. In short, this is not a Notre Dame squad that fazes easily.

But their experience will be put to the test by a Clemson squad that boasts a strong core itself. Among the most important players is goalkeeper Emily Lamparter, who boasts the best save percentage in the ACC. Lamparter was the reason Notre Dame required two overtimes to separate from the Tigers in the teams’ first matchup, as she made a pair of impressive stops at the conclusion of both regulation and the first overtime period. 

Clemson also boasts a number of impressive freshmen — including another standout from the two teams’ first meeting, Kayla Macleod. Macleod scored a game-high five goals against the Irish in March, including an outburst of three tallies in four minutes to turn a 12-9 Notre Dame lead into a 12-12 stalemate. Macleod was one of three Tiger rookies to be named to the conference all-freshmen team, Regan Byrne and Natalie Shurtleff being the others. The young guns help take some of the weight off the shoulders of senior Claire Bockstie, who leads the team with 41 goals on the year.

Should Notre Dame advance, they’d likely face a familiar foe in the semi-final round. Boston College looms as the third seed in the bracket, and the probable opponent for the second-seeded Irish. The Eagles eliminated Notre Dame from both the ACC and NCAA tournaments last season, padding a 5-0 all-time record against the Irish in postseason play. Notre Dame will have immediate history on their side should the two teams face off though, as the Irish won the regular season meeting between the two teams 15-14 to notch their first win in Chestnut Hill in two decades.