January 21, 2013

#LMranks: No. 10 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (Women)

by Matthew DeFranks | LaxMagazine.com | Team Page/Schedule

Barb Sullivan "is hands-down, one of the most dangerous defenders out there in the country," Irish coach Christine Halfpenny said.
© John Kostantaras

Lacrosse Magazine is counting down its preseason rankings throughout the month of January exclusively on LaxMagazine.com.

Today continues a look at our NCAA Division I Top 20 rankings. For more, visit LaxMagazine.com/LMranks. Follow @LacrosseMag on Twitter and Tweet using the hashtag #LMranks. The countdown will resume Tuesday with profiles of the ninth-ranked teams in NCAA Division I men and women.

Power Ratings

Offense: 4*
Defense: 3
Goalkeeping: 3
Draw Control: 2
* Out of 5

Top Returner

M Margaret Smith (Jr.)
The Baltimore-area native returns as Notre Dame's lone player to garner All-American honors when she was named to IWLCA's third team. Smith is a versatile and all-around player who totaled 47 draw controls, 37 ground balls, 31 caused turnovers and added 12 goals and three assists. "Everybody knows who Margaret is, how dangerous she can be," Notre Dame coach Christine Halfpenny said. "We expect her to contribute this year again, making strong contributions to the field and to our draw unit and having the ability to make some momentum changing plays."


M Kaitlyn Brosco (Jr.)
After a stellar freshman year (40 points), Brosco's numbers went down in nearly every category in 2012. If the Long Island product can return to form, she will give the Irish another talented option to look for on offense. "She's been doing a great job leading for us, doing some communicating on the offensive end," Halfpenny said. "We're looking for Brosco to be able to come in here and possibly step into that quarterback role for us where she really helps control our offense."

What's New?

Notre Dame welcomes two new assistant coaches to the program, four-time Notre Dame All-American Jill Byers and former Irish men's faceoff specialist Jake Marmul. "It's been really neat actually to add the new staff and to show our team, 'Hey, we're flexible with change, we embrace change and that it's going to be a process once again this year,'" Halfpenny said.

What's Not?

Senior goalkeeper Ellie Hilling will carry 54 starts and 407 saves into her final season at Notre Dame. Hilling, who started the first 47 games of her career, will be counted on to provide experience and leadership to the Notre Dame defense. "The game experience that Ellie brings to the table is second-to-none," Halfpenny said. "We're looking for that consistency out of her and she's looking for that too. She's focused and she knows she wants to win."

2012 Recap

#LMranks WD1 Preseason Countdown

No. 20 Princeton
No. 19 Boston College
No. 18 Stony Brook
No. 17 UMass
No. 16 Towson
No. 15 Cornell
No. 14 Georgetown
No. 13 Ohio State
No. 12 Penn
No. 11 Dartmouth
Monday: No. 10 Notre Dame
Tuesday: No. 9
Wednesday: No. 8
Thursday: No. 7
Friday: No. 6

More: Countdown schedule | MD1 | MD2 | WD2 | MD3 | WD3 | JuCo | MCLA | WCLA

Record: 13-5 (6-2 Big East)

In a Nutshell: In Christine Halfpenny's first season, Notre Dame jumped out of the gates to an 8-0 start and a top-10 ranking, scoring at least 14 goals in its first six games. The Irish had six players with more than 25 points, including now departed attacker Maggie Tamasitis. "It's easy to stop one or two kids but when you've got seven to 10 consistent scoring threats, I think that makes it a lot easier for everyone to play to their full potential," Halfpenny said. The Irish struggled against elite competition, losing all five games they played against NCAA tournament teams.

High Point: The Irish began the season with eight consecutive victories but didn't notch a marquee win until they beat then-No. 12 Georgetown in a 7-6 double-overtime thriller April 21. The win pushed Notre Dame to 12-2 and to No. 6 in the national polls and also saw Ellie Hilling make a career-high 16 saves.

Low Point: After a stellar beginning to the season, Notre Dame's season ended abruptly with back-to-back losses to Loyola (Md.) and Northwestern. The Irish ended the regular season with a shot at hosting during the NCAA tournament but, a few days later, lost Lindsay Powell to a torn ACL and left the Big East tournament with a first-round exit.

2013 Preview

Best Case: Notre Dame finds a way to beat some of the elite teams on their schedule and wins the Big East. A balanced offense and versatile defense allow the Irish to make a deep run in the NCAA tournament while Margaret Smith sets herself up for a monster senior season.

Worst Case: The Irish regress in their second year under Halfpenny and lose some of the close games they won last year (the Irish were 6-1 in games decided by three goals or less). Notre Dame struggles within the Big East and misses the NCAA tournament for the second time in three years.

Inside Scoop

Coach Christine Halfpenny's comments on...

M Jenny Granger (Sr.)
"I'm just excited about the potential she has stepped into this year. I think that Jenny is a very unique player. I think that this could be a breakout year for her. I've been very frank and honest with her. We don't need her to have a huge breakout year to make or break our season, however, I told her at the end of last season that this could be the year where she really breaks out and kind of finds her rhythm on our offense. Last year, she was searching for 'What is my role?' and I feel like she's starting to settle in and find that she can be a strong 1-v-1 attacker, she could be a feeder. She could be a lot more dynamic than she was even aware of. So I'm excited for her to really realize her potential this year. I do think, without putting any pressure on Jenny's shoulders, that she has the ability to have a breakout year for us."

A Jaimie Morrison (Sr.)
"It's been really fun this fall to see how she has stepped on to the field and continues to do what she does. She's a sure shooter for us and does an incredible job off-ball for us. It's been really nice to see the communication she brings to the field. We have a very deep offense and I expect Jaimie to be contributing and really building on the season she had last year [34 goals, eight assists]... When [individual players] are successful, our entire offense is successful. We'll be looking to Jaimie to continue to build on that and be one of those critical leaders on our offensive end through her communications, through her finishing ability and through her IQ. She has a very high IQ, she does a great job setting picks, screens, opening other players up. We're excited that we get to bring Jaimie back with that confidence she gained from last year."

D Barbara Sullivan (So.)
"Barb is hands-down, one of the most dangerous defenders out there in the country. The beauty about Barb is she keeps things really, really simple. She keeps things simple and I don't want to say just plays but she's a top matchup defender for us this year. Her stick has improved throughout the fall and I think she's continuing to learn the draw, being a draw specialist. That's been a huge, huge thing for Barb. And stepping into a leadership role as, yes, only a sophomore, she has incredible ability to lead. She leads by example. She's finding her voice, she's able to lead through her communications. We're excited about Barb building off last year's breakout season as a rookie."

Rival Coaches Say

"They have great talent and great chemistry. When they played us in the spring, they did things we hadn't seen before. They have a pretty deep team as well, which gives them a couple more things to work with. They're aggressive with their ride and they bring up the ball in transition. They're playing really well together."

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