The Notre Dame women’s lacrosse team returned its top producers from a COVID-shortened 7-0 season to capture a championship in 2021.
Two down, three to go.
The Irish defeated Virginia, 13-8, Sunday to reach the NCAA Tournament quarterfinals for the first time since 2016. Notre Dame’s toughest test will come next Saturday, when it again travels to Chestnut Hill in its third attempt this year to beat the No. 4 Boston College Eagles (15-3, 8-2 ACC). Notre Dame is 11-6 this year.
Sophomore Jackie Wolak was the star Sunday, setting career highs for goals (4), ground balls (2) and caused turnovers (2). The attacker didn’t receive the preseason accolodes of her classmates Madison Ahern and Kasey Choma, but leads the team in points (48 — 29 goals and 19 assists).
Besides Wolak, Ahern and senior Maddie Howe also had hat tricks, while Choma, senior Andie Aldave and graduate Samantha Lynch also found the back of the net. Lynch is second in the team in goals, despite missing six games — including both Boston College games — with an injury.
On the defensive side, goaltender Bridget Deehan stopped 10 of 18 Cavaliers’ shots on goal. Choma lead the team in ground balls scooped (3) and senior midfielder Diana Kelly caused three turnovers — a fourth of the Irish’s total on the day.
“Notre Dame’s pressure in that midfield transition is what we struggled with the most and that really rattled us more than I had hoped,” Virginia Coach Julie Myers told VirginiaSports.com. We had too many turnovers because of that pressure. We played a much better second half in terms of finding the back of the net. We dug a bit of a hole because of those turnovers in transition. Credit to Notre Dame, they played that ride better than any team we have played all year.”
The Cavaliers, as they did in the first matchup between these two teams, controlled the draw control circle. Aldave had five of the Irish’s nine wins, but Virginia won the faceoff 14 times.
The Irish were 17-for-18 in zone clears, improving on the nation’s third best percentage.
If the Irish were somehow to break BC’s svengali-like control, Notre Dame would likely face No. 1 North Carolina in the national semifinals. The Tar Heels are 19-0, and beat the Irish 18-4 in the ACC quarterfinals.
All eight favored teams advanced to the quarterfinals next weekend: No. 2 Northwestern will host No. 7 Duke, while No. 3 Syracuse welcomes No. 6 Florida. No. 8 Stony Brook will head to Chapel Hill in its attempt to spoil No. 1 North Carolina’s perfect season.
The quarterfinal games will air on ESPN+, with the semifinals and championship available on ESPNU.