Panthers prepare for Notre Dame
Other than disappointment in not getting a game close to home, High Point University women’s lacrosse coach Lyndsey Boswell expressed little emotion over playing at Notre Dame in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Friday.
“I’m indifferent about the selection,” Boswell said. “But it is exciting to be going to Notre Dame. And, I think it is a draw that gives a chance to still be playing after that.”
The Fighting Irish finished just 10-9 and 2-5 in their first year in the ACC. But, a schedule that is regarded as the second-toughest in the country helped them land the No. 8 seed.
They will play at 7 p.m. in the second game of a doubleheader that begins with Duke taking on Stanford at 4 p.m. The winners meet on Sunday in the round of 16, with No. 1-seed Maryland the likely opponent in the quarterfinals.
Boswell is confident that the Panthers, thanks in part to making the tournament for the first time last year, will not be awed by Notre Dame’s athletic tradition and name recognition, built largely by its football team.
It will be the first meeting of the schools in lacrosse.
“We respect the school and its tradition,” Boswell said. “Making the tournament last year and playing a game on North Carolina’s field helps us get past all that. I think we are beyond the wow factor.”
HPU got an automatic bid by winning the Big South tournament. The Panthers, 14-5, are rated in the high 20s in two polls and are seeded better this year compared last year, when they were ranked in the 40s. They lost in the first round to Loyola 18-7 with No. 1 overall seed North Carolina awaiting the winner.
The Panthers have won 10 in a row since losing to the then-No. 7 Blue Devils 10-9 on April 2, Notre Dame got one of its ACC wins by beating Duke 12-10 and got the other one by crushing Virginia Tech, which edged HPU 11-10 early in the season.
“I think playing Duke close helps us with not being awed by the bigger-name teams,” Boswell said. “We follow teams from outside the conference, and a lot of teams in the top 20 are beating each other. There’s a lot of parity this year unlike last year. I think we can beat most anybody.”
HPU will travel to South Bend late Wednesday. They will practice on Thursday and have a walk-through early Friday.
Notre Dame is hosting NCAA tournament games for the first time since 2009 and the fourth time ever.
“They’re fast and aggressive,” Boswell said. “They are very skilled. They are similar to us in style and form. It should make for an exciting game.
The Fighting Irish have four players who have scored 20 goals or more. Those are topped by freshman attacker Courtney Fortunato, who has 43 goals and 14 assists.
“All of their top players are young,” Boswell said. “(Fortuanto) is very athletic and can find the net. We’ll have a match-up on her and the others as well.”