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The Notre Dame bench began a countdown. Thirty, 20, 10, nine, eight, seven, but it wasn’t a countdown to a win. Instead, they were trying to let their teammates on the field know that the shot clock was about to expire.
It took 13 minutes for one of the highest scoring offenses in the country to score its first non free-position goal on Syracuse’s zone defense. Time and time again, Notre Dame would enter Syracuse’s half and be forced to the outside. The Fighting Irish had to resort to passing around the Syracuse zone to try and find some openings, but by the time Notre Dame began to put together a few runs, the game was out of reach.
No. 2 Syracuse (4-0, 2-0 Atlantic Coast) topped No. 4, Notre Dame (2-1, 0-1), 18-14 in a game it never trailed. The Fighting Irish entered the game with the fourth-best scoring offense in the nation, averaging almost 18 goals a game. However, it was SU, the fourth-best scoring defense who came out on top in the first of two matchups in a span of just four days.
“It wasn’t a slow-paced game, it was a lot of transition, a lot of people pushing the ball, and lots of caused turnovers and that creates that transition,” head coach Gary Gait said.
Notre Dame entered the game averaging 37.5 shots per game, with 28.5 on target, and the best scoring margin in the country. Samantha Lynch, the Irish’s leading scorer, entered the game with nine goals and two assists in just two games.
“They’re a super athletic team that has great players, and certainly deserve that four ranking, and they gave us a tough game,” Gait said.
But Thursday, Lynch notched just one assist. The Fighting Irish offense as a whole ended with just 27 shots and 22 on goal, as the team could not get past the Syracuse zone defense in the first half. Even when a Fighting Irish attacker would find a soft spot in the zone, Asa Goldstock stood tall in net and made multiple snap saves in the first 10 minutes of the game.
However, for all the success that Syracuse had in the first half, Notre Dame began to work their way into the Syracuse defense in the second half.
The runs began in the second half as Notre Dame looked to reply to a 5-0 Syracuse run. Notre Dame’s Madison Mote ran down the left side of the SU defense and sized up Grace Fahey for a one-on-one battle. Mote drove past Fahey and barreled in on goal as Fahey fouled her as a last resort. Still, Mote battled through and managed to slip the ball in under Goldstock. Mote’s goal began a five-goal run for the Fighting Irish.
Three of the five Notre Dame goals in the 11-minute run came from the free position. As the fouls on the Orange racked up, Notre Dame began to capitalize on those opportunities.
“They had five goals on eight meters which is always tough,” Gait said. “(We) got to make sure we do a better job and try and limit those opportunities.”
The run brought Notre Dame to within four goals, but Syracuse returned three goals to put the game out of reach. Still, Notre Dame continued to attack and scored three times in the last two minutes of the game. Gait acknowledged that his team made a few mistakes, but was happy with the overall defensive performance that kept the Irish at bay.
“The defense will analyze where the openings were, where the mistakes were made and learn from that as well,” Gait said.
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