The Loyola women's lacrosse team's performance on the draw Sunday against undefeated Notre Dame mirrored its season so far: struggling early and dominating late.
After winning just two first-half draws, the No. 18 Greyhounds controlled 11 of 17 in the second half to build a nine-goal lead en route to a 17-11 Big East Conference victory over the No. 6 Irish at Loyola's Ridley Athletic Complex.
The Greyhounds won 10 of the first 13 second-half draws and that helped them boost a 9-8 lead with 23 minutes left to 17-8 after Marlee Paton earned her career-high fourth assist on Annie Thomas' goal with 5:13 left.
Joanna Dalton, who handled the draws for Loyola, said the team made a concerted effort at halftime to ramp up their efforts on the draw.
"We came in and said, 'Individually, we all need to make a little bit more effort to work hard and go after those ground balls,'" Dalton said. "Luckily, I was able to put it in a couple places for my teammates to go to and they did a great job coming up with it."
Notre Dame won 11 of the first 13 draws and another superb effort from the Greyhounds veteran defense held off the Irish attack, never letting it take the lead.
"In the first half, the draws were coming more toward us and we had a better chance to crash the line," said Irish midfielder Margaret Smith, a McDonogh graduate. "It was just hard the second half figuring out where she was putting it. She did a great job getting it and when they were crashing, they were just coming up with it."
In their first three games, the Greyhounds won just seven, three and five draws, but in their past three games, all Big East wins, they won 14, 13 and 13. They lost two of those first three games and won all three of the conference games.
"I think this team is starting to understand the flow of the game and how the draw control can affect it," Loyola coach Jen Adams said. "I think that's why in the second half today, they really took each possession and each moment at the draw as a battle we looked to win, so I think approaching it in a different way and understanding the importance of it is going to help us the rest of the way."
Some of that understanding comes from a young team growing with playing time. On Sunday, Loyola used its quick ball movement to create openings on the crease against an Irish team that likes to pressure the ball.
Once again, freshmen, who have scored 64 of 118 goals, led the Greyhounds' offense. Hannah Schmitt and Annie Thomas each scored a career-high four goals while Sydney Thomas added three and Molly Hulseman had one.
Schmitt, Annie Thomas and Sydney Thomas combined for six goals in an 8-0 Greyhounds run after the Irish had pulled within 9-8 on Megan Sullivan's goal with 24.52 left. Dalton sparked the run with a tough angle shot as she raced by the right side of the Irish goal.
Paton, a sophomore midfielder and veteran of Australia'sWorld Cup team, scored her only goal in the run and dished out two of her four assists.
The Greyhounds defense also disrupted Notre Dame's momentum at several key moments, including holding off a handful of other scoring opportunities during the Irish's four-goal, first-half spurt that tied the game at 5 and forcing a turnover after the Irish won the next draw.
Ana Heneberry held Irish senior Maggie Tamasitis to just one goal, although she dished out five assists. Goalie Kerry Stootoff made eight saves, including five in the first half.
"To have someone like Kerry in the back, she just came up so big for us," Adams said. "I don't think necessarily with 11 goals scored against her, you'd recognize the impact that her saves had at those times. She's huge for us right now."
With the win, the Greyhounds (7-3) improve to 3-0 in the Big East with Syracuse the only other team unbeaten in the conference at 1-0. The Irish (8-1) drop to 2-1 and their loss leaves No. 1 and defending national champion Northwestern as the only undefeated team in Division I.
Notre Dame 5 6 -- 11
Loyola 7 10 -- 17
Goals: ND—Gargan 3, Morrison 3, Smith 2, M.Sullivan, Granger, Hulseman; L—Schmitt 4, A.Thomas 4, S. Thomas 3, Dalton 2, Cursaro 2, Paton, Hulseman. Assists: ND—Tamasitis 5, Granger; L—Paton 4, Schmitt 2, A.Thomas. Saves: ND—Hilling 6, Murray 2; L—Stoothoff.