The No. 16 Notre Dame women’s lacrosse team opened their 27th program season Friday with a dominant 18-2 win over San Diego State at the Loftus Sports Center.
Eleven different Irish players scored goals in the lopsided affair, including multiple goals from the three-headed hydra of Jackie Wolak (2 goals, 2 assists), Kasey Choma (3 goals) and Madison Ahern (4 goals, 1 assist). The three seniors accounted for 54 percent of Notre Dame’s scoring output last year.
Junior Lily Callahan, who played sparingly as Bridget Deehan’s backup in her first two seasons, stopped 9 of 11 shots to earn the win.
“What a great way to start your career as our starter,” Coach Christine Halfpenny told UND.com. “It’s huge, it fuels our whole team, she did her work while she was waiting and whenever her number was called she did her job. This entire game is a reflection of everything she did with the minutes she had. We couldn’t be more proud of her.”
Notre Dame opened the game with five unanswered goals in under four minutes, with junior midfielder Mary Kelly Doherty finding the twine first. Choma, senior attack Jane McAvoy, Wolak, Ahern and junior attack Alexandra McHugh added theirs before the Aztecs responded with 4:18 remaining in the first period. Junior attack Brook Waddell, who finished last season third in points for San Diego State, was the surprise recipient of a tipped pass of junior midfielder Kelly Denes’ stick. Waddell scooped the ground ball and beat Callahan to make the score 5-1.
The Irish, who dominated the center line by winning 19 of 23 draw controls, responded 34 seconds later with a second Wolak goal. Notre Dame then added scores from junior midfielder Keelin Schlageter and buzzer-beater from sophomore attack Marleigh Sanders to close the first period at 8-1. Sanders’ goal came in a woman-up opportunity for the Irish.
San Diego State minimized the third period scoring, allowing two while getting one of their own. But the Irish scored four in the final frame — from Ahern, McHugh, Choma and junior midfielder Kristen Shanahan — for the 18-2 score.
“It’s a great start to the season,” said Halfpenny. “I am really proud of my team, all their preparation led to us seeing a lot of things directly from practice translate in the game and our focus was directly on us in this game. I am proud of our girls. Our main three keys were to dominate the loose balls, which when you add up the draw controls, the ground balls, and second chance opportunities, you can check that box. We also slowed down their relentless fast break and slow break, and holding them to just two goals.”
Game attendance was 291.
The degree of difficulty ramps up considerably for the Irish now, as they face No. 4 Northwestern at 6 p.m. CT Thursday at Ryan Fieldhouse in Evanston. The Wildcats made it to the NCAA Semifinals last year and have not lost to the Irish since the pandemic-shortened 2020 season.