The Notre Dame women’s lacrosse team hasn’t lost a home game to an unranked opponent in more than three years. So when the Irish found themselves down four goals at halftime to winless Elon, Christine Halfpenny’s team was in uncharted territory.
Halfpenny pulled struggling junior goaltender Samantha Giacolone, who had yielded six goals in 17 minutes, for freshman Bridget Deehan before the first half concluded. That — combined with a more aggressive attack from the Irish — ultimately proved to be the turning point, as the Irish prevailed, 11-9. Notre Dame improved to 3-2, after losing Friday to the 7th ranked USC Trojans, 11-8.
“I think a lot of credit goes to Elon for how they came out,” Halfpenny told the university’s athletic site, UND.com. “They started the game blazing and really took it to us. Have to give them credit but look at what we just did. I am really, really proud at how they responded to the adversity, dug their heels in and got back to what they do, which is huge. On a two-game swing like that, for the team to feel the victory and how their career-best effort payed off, was massive. I am thrilled with how they really battled through the adversity and flipped the switch.”
The Phoenix held the Irish’s top scorer, junior Nikki Ortega, without a goal for the afternoon, but Notre Dame’s youth movement filled the void. Freshman Diana Kelly, who did not start, led all scorers with four goals. Fellow first-year Maddie Howe added four assists and classmate Katherine Enrietto scored a goal on her only shot.
“When your number is called, we expect you to be ready,” said Halfpenny. “We are all preparing whether you are on the field starting or on the sidelines ready for your number to be called. When your number is called, do what you do. I think that is how we will continue to grow into a really, really powerful team. Every time out we have learned how important it is to be game ready on game day. It seems to be a different person every time out but everybody is stepping up. We are a team, there is no individual efforts we are going to showcase over one or the other. We are thrilled with everything that everybody brought to the table today.”
The halves could not have been more different. Elon took 20 shots during the game, but only six after the break. Notre Dame, meanwhile, took 15 of its 23 shots during the second half.
Elon dominated draw controls and scored seven goals in the first half, while committing fewer turnovers and fouls than Notre Dame. Notre Dame managed as many draw controls as goals in the first half — three each — but then committed fewer fouls and fewer turnovers in the second half.
Junior midfielder Maeve Cowley scored her first three goals of the season and led all Elon players. Senior attack Nicole Sinacori added a goal and an assist in the losing effort.
The Phoenix have now lost all three of its games to ranked teams — 17-19 to the now 10th ranked Duke Blue Devils; 17-4 to the now 16th ranked Virginia Cavaliers and 11-9 to the 17th ranked Irish.
The Irish will host Marquette (3-2) at 5 p.m. EDT Wednesday at Loftus Sports Complex. The game will be available on ACC Network Extra / WatchESPN.