Blogs and Commentary

posted 07.26.2011 at 10.53 a.m. by Clare Lochary

Lucky (Half)penny: Notre Dame Hires W&M Wlax Coach

After a long search, Notre Dame has named its new women’s lacrosse coach – Christine Halfpenny, formerly of William & Mary. Halfpenny spent five seasons with the tribe and is coming off a 10-7 season.

“The commitment to excellence is there right when you walk out to Arlotta Stadium,” said Halfpenny in an interview with UND Athletics (available at the link above). “With all the support that Notre Dame does give, with the vision…I think that we have all of the ingredients in the recipe for a national championship caliber team.”

Put through the athletic-department-to-English translator, this means: Notre Dame expects an NCAA title. With the 2010 runner-up finish of the men’s lacrosse team and the opening of the lacrosse-only Arlotta Stadium, Notre Dame’s lax-y ambitions have risen. NCAA bids and the occasional Big East title aren’t going to be enough. Halfpenny replaces Tracy Coyne, whose contract was not renewed after 15 seasons and a 147-98 overall record. Coyne was the only coach the Irish had ever had, and she ranked 8th overall in active coaches for career wins with 281. But she only reached one final four during her tenure.  Halfpenny has yet to reach the NCAA tournament as a head coach, but she was a key assistant at Duke from 2004-2006, when she helped the Blue Devils reach back-to-back semifinals in ’05 and ’06. Duke head coach Kerstin Kimel, has confidence that her former AC can reach new heights with the Irish.

“Chris is a dynamic, organized, hard-working and innovative coach who will utilize the resources at Notre Dame to the fullest to help her student-athletes have the best possible experience,” said Kimel.

Team USA goalie Megan Huether, who played for Halfpenny at Duke and assisted her at William & Mary, said: “Chris is a fearless leader, a great motivator, and a passionate coach. I have no doubt that Chris will set lofty goals for herself and the team and will give her whole heart to this program. I believe Chris will have the Irish back on the national stage year in and year out.”

Notre Dame must believe that Halfpenny is the person to take them to the next level. Hilariously, the press release describes her record as such: “Four straight 10-win seasons.” That’s true, but it also allows them to sidestep the fact that her overall head coaching record is 43-44 over five seasons. Now, past wins and losses are not the total sum of what a coach has done, or can do. But the verbal gymnastics are another hint that Notre Dame wants something grander from its women’s lacrosse program.

There was another great Notre Dame coach who got started at William & Mary – Lou Holtz. The Irish seem to want Holtz-level achievements from Halfpenny, and they’ve given her some substantial resources (full scholarship count, nifty new stadium). Let’s see what she does with them.