Nov. 13, 2003
by Tim Connor
The 2004 Notre Dame women’s lacrosse team may have just closed its fall exhibition schedule, but head coach Tracy Coyne’s squad has its sights set on the regular-season that starts next February.
The Irish finished with an 8-7 record in 2003, winning their last four games. The highlight was a record setting 22-11 thrashing of Vanderbilt in the season finale. Since that game ended, the women’s lacrosse team has been looking forward to the 2004 campaign.
“We have been using the Vanderbilt game as our stepping stone into this season,” says Coyne.
“The way we played in that game, against a big rival, showed our players how good we really could be. We were all disappointed in not making the NCAA tournament last season, especially since we played so well down the stretch.
In 2003, the Irish played their toughest schedule ever. Ten of the team’s 15 games came versus ranked teams. Notre Dame finished third in the BIG EAST with a 4-2 record and was 16th in the final national rankings.
Among the tough defeats were one-goal losses in double-overtime to 16th-ranked Stanford and a one-goal overtime loss to fifth-ranked Georgetown. A win versus the Hoyas would have given the Irish a share of the BIG EAST title with Georgetown and Syracuse.
“The girls came back this fall with something to prove. Our seniors have set a positive example and the attitude has been great,” says Coyne.
Things won’t get any easier as the Irish will face a challenging schedule featuring nine top 20 teams from a year ago.
“I’m really excited about our schedule this year. We’ve added Johns Hopkins and James Madison, both highly ranked teams and the BIG EAST will be as strong as ever,” says Coyne.
The eighth-year head coach is also excited about her returning cast of players. Leading the way are offensive standouts Meredith Simon and Crysti Foote.
Simon, a senior, was an all-BIG EAST and second-team Mid-Atlantic region selection after scoring 27 goals with 14 assists for 41 points.
Foote became the first Irish freshman to be selected first-team all-region after getting 27 goals and 11 assists after starting just six of 15 games. In her six starts, Foote scored 18 goals and eight assists for 26 points.
Senior Lauren Fischer (18 goals, five assists) returns along with sophomore Mary McGrath (nine goals, five assists) at attack. Senior Mia Novic and junior Jackie Bowers had strong fall seasons and will be counted on in the spring.
Speed and quickness are the key components of the Notre Dame midfield. Seniors Abby Owen, Andrea Kinnik and Kassen Delano give the Irish a solid trio to control the middle of the field.
Owen came from nowhere last season to take second-team all-BIG EAST honors after scoring 15 goals with 10 assists for 25 points.
Kinnik was selected first-team all-Mid-Atlantic region as she dominated defensively with her tremendous speed and tenacious style of play. She was the team’s top match-up defender and led the Irish in ground balls and draw controls.
Delano, another midfield speedster, was a key to Notre Dame’s transition game with her quickness and playmaking skills.
Junior Jess Mikula and freshman Meghan Murphy stood out in the fall and will be counted on to contribute when play starts in the spring.
The defense will be young but talented. Kristen Gaudreau and Bridget Higgins are the veterans on the back line. Junior Lindsay Shaffer, sophomore Molly Miner and freshman Meaghan Fitzpatrick have stood out in the fall and will battle for playing time in the spring. Also expected in the regular rotation is sophomore Lena Zentgraf who sat out the fall semester.
Junior Carol Dixon will take over the duties in goal after serving as all-American Jen White’s backup the past two seasons. Dixon got into five games last season, playing 121 minutes with an 8.93 goals-against average.
According to Coyne, who owns a 57-43 record in seven seasons at Notre Dame, the fall was an important building block for the coming season.
“We worked to get better at the little things. Things like ground balls and possessing the ball. Against Georgetown last year we took the lead in overtime and all we had to do was get possession off the draw. We couldn’t and it cost us a win,” says Coyne.
She added, “The fall schedule was challenging. We played against some top teams to get us ready for the regular season. We had a chance to see some of our younger players play due to injuries. They made the most of it and played well.