2022 NCAA Lacrosse Preview: No. 7 Notre Dame (Women)

PHOTO COURTESY OF NOTRE DAME ATHLETICS

Graduate student goalkeeper Bridget Deehan will be key to the Irish’s defensive success in 2022.


The 2022 college lacrosse season is nearly upon us. As is our annual tradition, we’re featuring every team ranked in the Nike/USA Lacrosse Preseason Top 20.

Check back to USALaxMagazine.com each weekday this month for new previews, scouting reports and rival analysis.

NO. 7 NOTRE DAME

2021 Record: 11-7 (5-5 ACC)
Final Ranking (2021): No. 6
Coach: Christine Halfpenny (11th season)

Notre Dame’s 12-person freshman class couldn’t even gather in person outside of practice throughout most of last school year.

University guidelines barred gatherings of more than 10 people on campus following spikes in COVID-19 cases, so the group mainly spent time together on the field. This and other COVID-19 restrictions prompted a new attitude among team members that quickly caught on.

“They showed how you can take advantage of what you do get to do, control what you can control and take advantage of your time,” coach Christine Halfpenny said. “You won’t get more of it. You might get less of it, so take advantage of what you have in front of you.”

The team has continued to embrace this mindset heading into 2022. So, while the program may have graduated defensive cornerstones Kathleen Roe, Savannah Buchanan, Erin McBride and Kelly Donnelly, the Fighting Irish have a roster full of younger players ready to make the most of the opportunities before them.

Junior defender Emma Schettig saw little playing time last season after she transferred from Maryland, where she recorded 17 ground balls and nine caused turnovers through six games her freshman year.

With all the openings on defense, this might be the year Schettig breaks through with the Irish. Halfpenny said she’s also excited to watch sophomore midfielder Keelin Schlageter, midfielder Kelly Denes and defender Aine Maseker take on bigger roles.

NIKE/USAL PRESEASON TOP 20
TEAM PREVIEWS

1. Boston College

2. North Carolina

3. Syracuse

4. Northwestern

5. Stony Brook

6. Maryland

7. Notre Dame

8. Duke

9. Loyola

10. Florida

11. Virginia

12. James Madison

13. Princeton

14. Stanford

15. Denver

16. Rutgers

17. Drexel

18. Jacksonville

19. UConn

20. Penn

Graduate student goalkeeper Bridget Deehan will be key to the Irish’s defensive success in 2022. The Georgia native finished 2021 as a USA Lacrosse Magazine Honorable Mention All-American, recording 167 saves through 18 games to finish atop the ACC.

“She will be a huge cornerstone to what we do,” Halfpenny said. “She has incredible relationships with every person on the team. She’s a selfless player. She’s a consummate leader.”

While the Irish may have a younger defense in 2022, they return with an experienced, dynamic offense. The program’s top four scorers in 2021 — junior attackers Kasey Choma, Jackie Wolak and Madison Ahern and graduate attacker Maddie Howe — all return to South Bend this season. Halfpenny said she’s especially excited to return such experience on attack, saying the unit has the potential to be one of Notre Dame’s strongest offenses within the last decade.

These veterans on attack have already stepped up as leaders. She credited the Class of 2019 with building a strong culture of leadership and empowerment within the program — a legacy that Choma, Wolak, Ahern and Howe have continued.

“To see them taking lessons they’ve learned and pass it on to the younger girls, that’s been amazing,” Halfpenny said. “That builds a comfort level for them, it allows them to play with some freedom, [and] it allows them to bring creativity to the table.”

The Irish brought in seven freshmen this season, significantly smaller than their 12-person freshman class last year. Midfielder Grace Weigand headlines the class of 2025, arriving following a powerful senior campaign that earned her Under Armour, USA Lacrosse and Adrenaline All-American honors. Midfielder Ava Kristynik may also make an immediate impact after a successful fall ball season taking draws.

As Notre Dames prepares to open its season against Central Michigan on February 11, Halfpenny said she’s impressed with the team’s resiliency and determination.

“They’ve got a fire about them this year,” Halfpenny said. “They know what they’ve been working towards. … They really are persistent and determined in making it 60 more minutes to get to the ultimate goal of being in the Final Four.”






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TOP RETURNERS

Bridget Deehan, G, Gr.

Deehan returns to South Bend as one of the country’s top goalkeepers, ranking third nationally in saves in 2021. Her prowess in goal will be especially important as Notre Dame takes on some of the country’s most competitive attack units, including Boston College and Northwestern, especially with a younger, less experienced Irish defense.

Kasey Choma, A, Jr.

Choma led the Irish in scoring in 2021, notching 45 goals over 18 games — good for eighth in the ACC. The USA Lacrosse Preseason All-American has been an offensive staple for Notre Dame since her arrival and will play an important role leading a veteran Irish attack in 2022.

Maddie Howe, A, Gr.

Howe, a second-year captain for the Irish, returned for a fifth year following a strong senior campaign, scoring 33 goals and notching 13 assists. Howe will be a strong leader for the Irish on and off the field in 2022. Halfpenny said it’s been “amazing” how Howe has embraced the younger players and given them advice so far.

KEY ADDITION

Grace Weigand, M, Fr.

Weigand arrives in South Bend as one of the country’s top recruits, recording 39 points, 13 caused turnovers and 30 ground balls in her senior year of high school en route to first-team All-State honors. The Colorado native was a three-sport high school athlete and will bring plenty of athleticism and creativity to the field.

BREAKOUT CANDIDATE

Emma Schettig, D, Jr.

Schettig was a highly touted transfer, but only appeared in seven of Notre Dame’s 18 games. She was dynamic when on the field, recording 14 draw controls and two caused turnovers. Schettig will likely play a bigger role for the Irish this season, especially with the team’s openings on the draw and defense.

ENEMY LINES

What rival coaches say about the Fighting Irish:

“They have a fantastic goalie. You have to have a good shooting day playing them. They’re very athletic and hard-working. They took some really great players and brought some back. I would expect them to contend with the top teams this year.”

BEYOND THE BASICS
POWERED BY LACROSSE REFERENCE

22.1%

Notre Dame was 9-0 last year against anyone not named Syracuse, Boston College or North Carolina. Unfortunately, they combined to go 0-7 against Tier A of the ACC. A stat that stands out for what was an excellent offensive unit was ball security. The Irish turned the ball over on 26.6 percent of their possessions last season, but when you account for the high rates at which their opponents (on average) turned teams over, their adjusted turnover rate was 22.1 percent, good for No. 2 nationally. — Zack Capozzi

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