Feb 28, 2013, 10:57 AM EDT
The home opener inside the Loftus Athletic Complex proved to be just the right venue the seventh-ranked Irish needed to earn a victory and improve to 2-0 on the season. After an away matchup against Stanford, which Notre Dame won 12-10 in Palo Alto, the team had a ten-day layover and responded looking fresh and invigorated while posting a season-high 13 goals in a 13-8 victory over #13 Ohio State.
The standout performance came from junior middie and co-captain Margaret Smith. Smith surpassed the hat trick, netting four goals on five shots.
“I think she (Smith) had a great first half and second half. While you might see goals in the first half, she forced five turnovers. She was all over the field helping us win draws and get back on defense, which sparked our offense. She was a force to be reckoned with today. In huddles, she did exactly what a coach wants the leader to do. She always had the focus of finishing the job. Awesome for 60 minutes,” second-year head coach Christine Halfpenny said.
Smith was humbled by her performance and was confident that her success was a result of how everyone on the field played as a unit.
“They were definitely playing the ball side with double teams and my teammates found me on the back side. It could have been anyone else in that position so it was just us working together as a team,” Smith said.
The game was tightly contested at the beginning of the first half. The Irish jumped out to an early lead but fell behind Ohio State after three straight Buckeye goals by Clan Dabrowski, Katie Chase, and Jessica Hasset. However, the Irish weathered the storm and fought back to regain the lead late in the first half and head into the break leading 7-5 and never looking back.
“It’s a long game. We don’t really focus on the clock or the scoreboard. We play the way we train and pay attention to the small details. We focus on coming up with ground balls and trying to eliminate opponents’ second chances. The girls understand 60 minutes is a long time and mistakes will happen. We need to recover from those mistakes and stay resilient. This team is showing resilience at a young time in the season,” Halfpenny said.
Although the Irish didn’t have a commanding lead at the half, they were confident in the pregame scouting and trusted the looks they were getting on both offense and defense.
“We knew it would be a slugfest and were prepared for that so we didn’t make any adjustments throughout the game. We wanted to stick with our game plan heading into the matchup,” Halfpenny said.
Smith didn’t have a monopoly as a standout performer against the Buckeyes. Senior attack player Jaimie Morrison tallied six total points on two goals and four assists. Betsy Mastropieri boosted the Irish off the bench with two goals and Lauren Sullivan chipped in with a goal and assist of her own.
The scoring barrage may mask the performances of the Irish defense, but the mixture of Emily Conner, Barbara Sullivan, Leah Gallagher, and Stephanie Peragallo stymied the Buckeyes in the second half, only allowing three goals.
Much of the sense of urgency displayed by Notre Dame in the final period could be credited to the leadership of Coach Halfpenny and assistant coaches Jill Byers and Jake Marmul, as well as the team captains.
“I’m a much quieter person that leads by example but having to step up vocally gives me and my teammates a lot of confidence to go out there and play hard,” Smith said.
The Irish will travel to Pittsburgh on Saturday for a matchup with Duquesne in positive spirits.
“This win is a big confidence booster for our girls. It’s great to know that everything we’ve been working on does indeed work. We were in a five-week preseason and then had one game with a ten-day layoff. I wondered how this team would come out. This team was highly-ranked and very physical and athletic. We can build off of a game like this,” Halfpenny said.
Duquesne won’t be a slouch, as the Dukes will certainly compete for an Atlantic 10 title this season. The game will take place at 12 on Saturday as the Irish look to make it three in a row to start off the 2013 regular season.
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