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Women’s Lacrosse: Notre Dame Falls In Season Opener vs. Boston College

Freshman Maddie Howe and junior Nikki Ortega shine in a losing effort.

Senior midfielder Molly Cobb
Mike Miller/Fighting Irish Media

The Notre Dame women’s lacrosse team opened its 2018 season Saturday much as it had the prior year: losing a close game to a ranked opponent in the Loftus Sports Center.

This year, the Irish fell, 13-11, to the No. 6 Boston College Eagles, an ACC foe who finished last year as the second best squad overall.

The Eagles returned Sam Apuzzo, who set the college’s single season points record last year and blistered the Irish for 11 points in two Eagles wins last year. The Irish, meanwhile, were without a returning All-American for the first time in 14 seasons. Their two top goal scorers from last year, Cortney Fortunato and Casey Pearsall, had graduated and this year’s squad only boasts four seniors.

The Irish youth movement Saturday was led by freshman Maddie Howe, who scored three goals, added an assist and showed no ill effects from two ACL tears suffered in high school.

Howe opened the scoring, finding a seam — and a pass from her sophomore teammate, Savannah Buchanan — and then depositing the ball over Lauren Daly’s right shoulder.

Daly, the Eagles’ junior goaltender, stopped just six of 17 shots on goal in the victory. On the opposite side, junior Samanatha Giacolone made 15 saves in a losing effort.

The Irish staked out a two-goal lead before the Eagles answered with two of its own. The teams would trade goals until 19 minutes remaining in the second half, when the B.C. squad started to pull away.

The Eagles, led by attacker Kaileen Hart’s four goals and one assist, extended their lead to 12-7 before the Irish came storming back. Buchannan scored from a free position attempt, Howe added two more goals and junior attacker Nikki Ortega scored with just eight seconds remaining to narrow the final margin to two.

“We absolutely won’t be satisfied at all with the outcome of this game,” Irish coach Christine Halfpenny told Notre Dame’s official athletic site. “However, with the effort that we put it and the attitude that we brought, we are really excited to sharpen up, continue to grow and get better every day. I am overwhelmingly excited about the culture and character of this team and we will grow from this result.”

Halfpenny said she was “thrilled” with the effort of the five freshmen — Howe and fellow midfielders Kathleen Enrietto, Andie Aldave, Diana Kelly and Kaci Messier — in their first career games. Enrietto, the only freshman to see action who did not start, scooped up a loose ball and scored a nifty first half goal. Aldave, the No. 1 overall recruit, was held scoreless but had five shots (three on goal) in her debut.

“We thought they set the tone for themselves and their careers by coming out and giving us everything that they had,” Halfpenny said. “I think that they really showcased their IQ, their skill, their speed and their effort today.”

The Irish (0-1, 0-1 ACC) head to warmer weather next weekend, when they challenge Jacksonville, last year’s Atlantic Sun champs, at 1 p.m. Saturday. (The Dolphins open their season today against Michigan.) Notre Dame remains in Florida for an 11 a.m. game Sunday against the Stetson Hatters (who host Arizona State today).