The Achilles heel of the Notre Dame women’s lacrosse team was their four-quarter performances, being outscored 11-5 during a tumultuous 1-2 season start.
But the Irish flipped the script Wednesday at the Loftus Sports Center, ripping off five goals on eight shots and nearly upsetting the No. 6 Northwestern Wildcats Wednesday at Loftus Sports Center.
The Wildcats (3-1), who lost last year’s Big Ten Attacker of the Year to a season ending injury, hung on for a 17-16 victory — buoyed by seven goals from graduate attack Lauren Gilbert.
Gilbert and junior attack Erin Coykendall have been the two headed-hydra terrorizing Wildcats’ 2022 opponents in Izzy Scane’s absence. The Irish (1-3) were able to limit Coykendall to one goal and one assist, but Gilbert was deadly from the eight-meter free position line — converting all four of her attempts.
Bridget Deehan, coming off the worst game of her collegiate career in Saturday’s loss to Vanderbilt, stopped 10 of Northwestern’s 27 shots on goals.
The Irish started off hot, scoring twice in the first five minutes of game action. But Northwestern’s speed, crisp clears and tight passing quickly put them ahead for good. The Irish were able to reduce the deficit to just one early in the third, but Gilbert scored four of the game’s next six goals to extend the Wildcats’ lead to 13-10.
After Coykendall’s lone goal early in the fourth, the Wildcats seemed to be purring with a five goal lead. But it was the Irish who pounced, ripping off four goals from junior midfielder Kasey Choma, junior attack Jackie Wolak and sophomore midfielder Kelly Denes.
With the Wildcats hanging on for life, the Irish senior midfielder Madison Mote drew an untimely yellow card to give the visitor’s a woman-up advantage. Sophomore defensewoman Hannah Johnson converted just seconds later, extending the lead to 17-15.
Graduate attack Maddie Howe scored her third goal with 17 seconds left, which gave the Irish a small window of opportunity to send the game to overtime. Instead, graduate midfielder Jill Girardi won her eighth draw control against Choma and the Wildcats ran out the clock.
Besides Howe, Wolak and Denes had three goals apiece. Choma had four and three draw controls. Hannah Dorney led the defense with 5 caused turnovers and 4 ground ball pickups.
Northwestern is now 22-5 all-time against Notre Dame. Both the Irish and Wildcats play Syracuse next — Notre Dame hosts the Orange at 6 p.m. Saturday and then Northwestern welcomes the nation’s third-ranked team to Evanston on Tuesday.