Feb. 27, 2000
NOTRE DAME, Ind. — As Tracy Coyne enters her fourth year as head coach of the Notre Dame women’s lacrosse program, she sees the Irish ready to make a national impact in only its fourth season as a varsity program.
“With the progress the team has made going into our fourth year, the expectations are high that this will be a benchmark year in terms of potentially breaking into the top 20 and truly establishing ourselves as a nationally-recognized program,” says Coyne, who is also the newly-appointed head coach of the Canadian national team for the 2001 World Cup. “We’ve taken steps in that direction, and it’s reflected in the players we have and what we’ve achieved already.”
The Irish showed signs of being a national power during the 1999 season when they took the field as the highest-scoring team in the country during parts of the season. Notre Dame finished with a 9-6 record and the fourth-best offense nationally with 13.33 goals per game.
Some of the achievements also have been reflected in a number of firsts for the program. Junior Lael O’Shaughnessy became the team’s first 50-goal scorer as a sophomore in 1999. Her 50 goals earned O’Shaughnessy the first Irish spot on the Mid-Atlantic all-region team. Kerry Callahan became Notre Dame’s first women’s lacrosse GTE Academic All-American and the first Irish women’s lacrosse player to participate in the STX senior all-star game before graduating in 1999.
The 2000 Irish — the first without any players from the former club team — face their toughest schedule with the return of all but three starters and the addition of another talented freshman class to the program.
“The schedule is definitely more competitive, but I think we are ready to handle it,” says Coyne. “We’ve integrated all the steps we need in order to position ourselves to become a truly nationally competitive women’s lacrosse team.”
Helping to lead the Irish into a level of national respect will be the three elected captains, O’Shaughnessy, junior Kathryn Perrella and sophomore Kathryn Lam.
“Our captains provide a vital link of communication between the team and coaches,” says Coyne. “All three possess the characteristics that we expect from our leaders.”
For the first time in history, Notre Dame will have three talented goalkeepers on its roster, each bringing different styles and strengths to the cage. Junior Tara Durkin comes to the program after transferring from the University of Massachusetts, junior Carrie Marshall returns from last year, and freshman Jen White enters Notre Dame after a strong high school career.
“The goalkeeping position is going to be interesting because we have three goalies who all are capable of playing at any time,” says Coyne. “It will be good because we have a competitive atmosphere in practice every day. We have people fighting it out to be in the top spot and that’s positive.”
Durkin played two seasons at Massachusetts where she started nine game, played in 17 contests during her two years and had a 7.25 goals-against average with a .643 save percentage. She brings great quickness and athleticism to Notre Dame and should challenge right away for the starting position.
Marshall played every minute of every game for the Irish last year as a sophomore and has started all 28 games in her Notre Dame career. She has the most collegiate experience of the Irish goalkeepers and has seen her play improve with the addition of the competition.
White hails from St. Mary’s High School in Annapolis, Md., the same program as Irish sophomore and 1999 MVP Tina Fedarcyk. She has the best technical skills of the three goalies and also should contend for the starting spot.
The Irish defense looks to be an improved unit with the return of three starters and a key reserve and the addition of four freshmen. Megan Schmitt is the only departed player from the 1999 defense that allowed just under 11 goals per game.
“Our defense is where we are the deepest, especially line defense,” says Coyne. “We are certainly counting on an improved defense to be one of the strengths of the team.”
Coyne looks for Lam to be the leader of the defense after being voted a team captain. The experience of starting all 15 games as a freshman has helped her develop into a defender ready to handle important defensive assignments. Her 35 groundballs led the team, and she chipped in seven goals on just eight shots.
Fedarcyk was voted the team’s MVP in 1999 after a freshman season in which she made an immediate impact for the Irish. She was one of just two Irish players — Lam being the other — to collect at least 30 groundballs and control at least 30 draws. In addition to her defensive skills and tenacity on the field, Fedarcyk possesses the versatility to have an impact nearly everywhere on the field.
Junior Sarah LeSueur has been a regular in the Irish defensive lineup the last two years and is expected to continue her intelligent play. She has started 26 of 28 games in her career and has provided a spark to the transition game.
Sophomore Rachel Turk looks for an expanded role after playing in 13 games last year in a reserve capacity. Among the tallest players on the team, she brings a dominating presence to the defensive end after a year of collegiate experience.
The Irish also will look to four freshmen in the defensive end. Jen Berarducci brings speed and versatility to the defense after earning Baltimore all-metro honors in high school. Elizabeth Knight comes from a strong high school program at the Bryn Mawr School in Baltimore and a strong foundation of skills topped off by great enthusiasm. Coyne expects Knight to be a solid defender for the Irish off the bench.
Meredith Potempa also played at a strong high school program in the Baltimore area at Notre Dame Prep, which has helped her prepare for the collegiate game. Eleanor Weille rejoins former Garden City High School teammate LeSueur on defense and also should help the Irish off the bench after helping Garden City win the New York state championship as a senior. Caitlin Blazic has solid fundamentals and should add depth to the midfield.
The midfield excites Coyne with the addition of a number of talented freshmen to an already speedy and athletic group that consist of junior Maura Doyle and sophomores Maureen Henwood, Alissa Moser, Natalie Loftus and Kate Scarola.
“We are a lot faster in the midfield,” says Coyne. “Hopefully we’ll be able to push the ball up the field faster, play more uptempo and create more opportunities to score.”
Doyle returns for her junior season as the most experienced of the Irish midfielders, having started 26 of 28 games in her first two years. She has worked hard on her game to improve her play both offensively and defensively after finishing fifth on the team in 1999 in scoring and goals.
Henwood and Moser were a major part of Notre Dame’s improvement as both started every game last year, an opportunity that helped them develop a better understanding of playing both as an individual and a unit. Henwood’s 35 groundballs led the team along with Lam, and she caused 20 turnovers.
Moser jumped quickly into collegiate lacrosse last year with four goals in the first three games. One of the hardest-working players on the team, she has improved her game both offensively and defensively. After playing three sports in high school, Moser has started to develop and raise her game to a new level at Notre Dame.
Another much-improved player, Loftus gained valuable experience last year when she played in every game with five starting appearances. Her fundamentals and stick skills have improved and have helped position her to have an even greater impact on the team in 2000. Scarola enters her sophomore year with more confidence after earning a spot on the team as a walk-on last year. She sparked the Irish off the bench in 10 appearances with four goals and four assists.
Coyne expects freshman and United States under-19 national team member Kelly McCardell to give the midfield an immediate boost with her international experience in helping the U.S. win the 1999 World Championships. The high school All-American from W.C. Henderson in West Chester, Pa., has great defensive midfield skills along with great speed and understanding of the game.
Anne Riley’s combination of size and speed should allow her to challenge for a starting role. Danielle Shearer adds speed and quickness to the midfield and also should vie for a starting spot.
Perhaps the biggest strength for the Irish last season came from the attack, which accounted for over 80 percent of the 177 goals scored by Notre Dame, which finished the year as the fourth-highest scoring team in NCAA Division I. Captains O’Shaughnessy and Perrella once again will spearhead the attack this year.
“Our attack has more composure, depth and experience this year,” says Coyne. “Last year we created opportunities and didn’t finish, so obviously we are focusing on finishing. We have more offensive weapons than in the past and more people capable of being threats to score. This will make it harder for teams to focus on just one player.”
O’Shaughnessy has proven herself to be among the best attack players in the country and a candidate to become Notre Dame’s first women’s lacrosse All-American after scoring 50 goals last season, including 15 goals in four games against ranked teams. She enters her junior year as the third-highest scoring returning player in NCAA Division I.
Coyne will be counting on Perrella to elevate the level of her play to help the Irish make the jump into the top 20. She enters her junior year with more confidence and determination after scoring 23 goals as a sophomore and 13 as a freshman.
Sophomore Maureen Whitaker could be one of the team’s most improved players this year after gaining a year of experience last year. She brings a great attitude and work ethic to the team after playing in 10 games last year and tallying four goals.
Freshmen Angela Dixon and Julie Ravis also should bolster the attack. Dixon’s athleticism and shooting skills should help her challenge for a starting role. Ravis’ size will aid the Irish off the bench.
“This is the most excited we have been entering a season,” said Coyne, “The program is finally in a position where we have an experienced team. We have more depth and talent than we’ve ever had, even with no seniors. The schedule has gotten tougher so we’ve played against better competition. Not only are we more talented athletically, we have people in key positions with quality experience that we are hoping will pay off with some big wins.”