May 5, 2011

Big East Contenders Keep Enemies Closer

by J. Jude Hazard |

A midseason midfield swap of sophomore Sophia Thomas (pictured) and senior Mary Beth Brophy sparked the Georgetown offense and allowed the helped the Hoyas to the top seed in this week's Big East tournament.

© John Strohsacker/

Four familiar foes square off tonight in the semifinals of a wide open Big East women's lacrosse championship at the Multi-Sport Field in Washington, D.C. The first semifinal at 5:30 p.m. features No. 2 seed Syracuse against No. 3 seed Loyola, six days after the Orange narrowly defeated Loyola in Baltimore. The 8:15 p.m. nightcap pits No. 1 seed Georgetown against a Notre Dame team that defeated the Hoyas less than two weeks ago.

"Although we did land the number one seed, I think we're very well aware of the fact that all four teams who got into the tournament are contenders," Georgetown senior midfielder Mary Beth Brophy said. "Thursday is definitely going to be a battle."

Georgetown (9-7, 6-1 Big East) started the season 1-4 and was 2-5 heading into an April 1 game against Connecticut. The Hoyas reeled off six wins in a row before losing their only conference game to Notre Dame on April 23. Brophy said Georgetown will look to slow down Notre Dame's midfield this time around and ride hard on defense to cause turnovers between the 30s.

"We didn't play our best game that day, and Notre Dame came out to put up a big fight. For us it's a positive, because we want to get revenge," Brophy said. "We didn't play our best game against them and we still kept it within a few goals. Now that we have played them once, we know what their strengths are."

Brophy attributed the team's recent success in part to coach Ricky Fried switching up the midfield lines halfway through the season. The Hoyas run two midfield lines that alternate starting each game and see equal playing time throughout the season. After the team's rough start, he switched Brophy and sophomore Sophia Thomas.

"Our backs were up against the wall a little bit, so we needed to play better to give ourselves an opportunity to be where we are now," Fried said. "I think that [midfield line change] woke people up."

Both Notre Dame (9-8, 6-2 Big East) and Syracuse (10-7, 7-1 Big East) also got off to rough starts this season only to rally later in the year. The Irish have won their last four conference games and Syracuse is on a five-game winning streak.

All of Syracuse's losses in its 2-5 start were against nationally ranked teams, including a 21-11 drubbing against Virginia and a narrow 7-5 loss at Maryland.

"We had a tough beginning schedule for such a young team," Syracuse senior defender Lindsay Rogers said in an e-mail. "It's hard to get used to traveling and playing and really meshing, and that showed in our record. The teams we played were all goodm and there were a lot of times where if we had made a few less mistakes or a couple more plays, the score could have been something else."

With such evenly matched competition all peaking at the right time, Syracuse coach Gary Gait said Thursday's game will come down to execution.

"Loyola's certainly got the veteran leadership there that can play a little more freelance than the other teams," he said. "We'll make some adjustments that we think can help us, and hopefully we execute those adjustments and things go well."

The winners of Thursday's games meet Saturday at 1 p.m. with an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament on the line.

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