May 2, 2009

Irish Fend Off Upset-Minded Cornell

from press releases

ITHACA, N.Y. - Senior All-American and Tewaaraton Trophy candidate Jillian Byers (Northport, N.Y.) paced a second-half Notre Dame rally on Saturday afternoon, leading the Irish from a 7-3 second-half deficit to an 11-9 win over 19th-ranked Cornell at Schoellkopf Field.

Byers, who had four goals and two assists in the game, scored three times in the second half and set up two others as Notre Dame out scored the Big Red, 8-3, in the second half to run the sixth-ranked Irish record to 15-4 on the season, equaling the program's best record ever set in 2006.

Joining Byers on the score sheet was junior Gina Scioscia (Summit, N.J.) who had two goals and two assists in the win. Sophomore Kailene Abt (Huntington, N.Y.) added two goals while Kaitlin Keena (So., Vienna, Va.), Ansley Stewart (So., Alexandria, Va.) and Shaylyn Blaney (So., Stony Brook, N.Y.) added one goal each in the win. The Irish were held to 11 goals or less this season just two other times this season, an 18-11 loss to Vanderbilt and a 21-5 loss to Northwestern.

Cornell got two-goal games from Shannon McHugh, Jessica Wiegand and Libby Johnson with Tissy O'Connor, Katie Kirk and Olivia Knotts scoring once each for the Big Red.

The loss dropped Cornell to 9-7 on the season with the Irish taking their 15-4 record into the NCAA Tournament that starts next weekend. Notre Dame will find out on Sunday at 10:00 p.m. who and where they will be playing their opening round game on Sunday, May 10.

The Irish got off to a slow start on Saturday versus the Big Red as Cornell scored the first three goals of the game. O'Connor opened the scoring at 25:46 when she converted a pass from Johnson to beat Notre Dame goalkeeper Erin Goodman (Sr., Cortlandt Manor, N.Y.).

McHugh made it 2-0 at 20:44 and Kirk scored on a free-position shot with 13:53 left in the half for the 3-0 lead. Meanwhile the Irish were trying to figure out Cornell goalkeeper Kristen Reese who made eight of her 13 saves in the opening stanza.

She kept the Irish off the board until the 10:50 mark of the first half when Keena beat her with a shot inside the right post to cut the lead to 3-1.

The Big Red answered back less than one minute later when Knotts scored at 9:52 to regain the three-goal lead at 4-1.

Maggie Tamasitis (Fr., Boyertown, Pa.) helped cut that lead in half when she fed Abt from behind the net and Abt beat Reese from in front at 8:18 to make it 4-2.

McHugh got her second goal of the half on a free-position shot with 6:20 left only to see Byers get on the score sheet 17 seconds later off a feed from Scioscia who won a draw and carried the ball deep into the Cornell zone before setting up Notre Dame's leading scorer.

The Big Red got the final goal of the half at 3:20 when Wiegand scored to make it 6-3 going into halftime.

Cornell would take its biggest lead of the game just 1:25 into the second half when Johnson got her first goal of the afternoon for a 7-3 lead. From there, Byers took over the game, leading the Irish back as they ran off six consecutive goals in a 15:20 span.

The senior attack standout picked up her second goal of the afternoon at 26:04 to make it 7-4. Just over five minutes later, Byers found Scioscia in front of the net and she tucked a shot behind Reese for her first of the game and 48th of the season to cut the lead to two goals.

Notre Dame made it 7-6 at 17:32 with Stewart converting a Tamasitis set up and Scioscia tied the game 14 seconds later at 17:18 with Byers setting her up for the second time in the game to make it 7-7.

Byers put the Irish ahead to stay with 12:22 left in the game as she was fouled on a scoring bid and then converted the free-position shot by bouncing a shot past Reese for her third goal of the game.

Abt made it 9-7 to close out the six-goal run at 10:44 when she scored off a Scioscia pass for her second goal of the game.

Wiegand kept Cornell close with her second goal of the day at 9:41 to cut the Irish lead to 9-8.

Byers closed out her six-point game with her fourth goal of the day as she grabbed a ground ball on the left sideline, twisted through the Big Red defense and scored inside the left post with 7:53 left to make it 10-8. The goal was her 74th goal of the season to tie the Notre Dame single-season mark set by Crysti Foote `06 in 2006.

The Irish went to the stall from there with Blaney making it 11-8 with 2:45 left. Johnson got the final Cornell goal with 2:01 left as she scored on a free-position shot for the 11-9 final score.

Notre Dame's defense continued its strong play, limiting the Big Red to just seven shots in the second half. Cornell had 20 turnovers in the game with the Irish forcing 13 of them, led by Shannon Burke's (Sr., Timonium, Md.) career-high of six.

The Irish out shot Cornell by a 32-18 margin. Goodman finished with five saves in the Notre Dame goal.

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