Michigan freshman attacker Caitlin Muir wrapped around the back of the net, deftly throwing a pass to sophomore attacker Lilly Grass, who put the ball in the net with ease. Soon after, sophomore midfielder Chandler Kirby earned a free position shot, which she converted by calmly slotting the ball into the right side of the goal.
In an instant, Notre Dame (2-4 ACC, 7-6 overall) saw its lead cut down to just three. And for a second, the Michigan women’s lacrosse team (1-2 Big Ten, 5-8 overall) looked like it had some momentum.
But seconds later, it was gone.
Irish sophomore attacker Jessi Masinko drove from behind the net and deftly placed the ball in the bottom right corner of the goal. Thirty seconds later, midfielder Maddie Howe sprinted straight down the field and scored once more for Notre Dame. Following another goal, the Irish took a commanding 11-5 lead into halftime. They would never relinquish that lead, winning the match, 14-8.
Notre Dame’s offense was extremely effective in the first half, notching 11 goals and controlling possession.
“Of all our games this season, they probably move the ball around the quickest,” said Michigan coach Hannah Nielsen. “They change the plan of attack really quickly, and every one of their seven players was an offensive threat.”
After halftime, the Wolverines appeared to settle in and play more comfortably at the game’s up-tempo pace.
“From top to bottom, in every aspect of it, it was just a really fast-paced game,” Nielsen said. “Notre Dame is an extremely athletic team; they were riding us hard, clearing the ball very fast, and they were really pushing the tempo. Once we settled in and realized it was just like any other game or any other practice, we started playing better.”
It was readily apparent that Michigan started executing better in the second half. Its offense was much more efficient, converting three of its seven shots. The goals came from junior attacker Adriana Pendino, fifth-year senior attacker Bianca Brueckner and Chandler Kirby.
The Wolverine defense showed improvement as well; it took the Irish nearly 18 minutes to score their first goal of the second half. Notre Dame’s failure to convert scoring opportunities occurred in large part because of stellar goalkeeping by junior goalkeeper Alli Kothari. At halftime, Kothari replaced struggling junior goalkeeper Mira Shane, who was coming off a career-high 14-save performance against Maryland.
“Unfortunately, Mira saw some really up-close shots in the first half and wasn’t getting her stick on them,” Nielsen said. “She had a tough day in the first half and we just needed to make a change. Fortunately for us, Alli came in and played great.”
Although Michigan’s second half improvements allowed it to keep up with the pace of the Irish — with a second-half score of 3-3 — the adjustments came too late.
“Unfortunately for us, it took a while for us to get used to that speed,” Nielsen said.