2023 NCAA Lacrosse Rankings: No. 14 Notre Dame (Women)

PHOTO BY RICH BARNES

Madison Ahern produced career highs in goals (57) and assists (20) last year.


The 2023 college lacrosse season is almost here. 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. 14 NOTRE DAME

2022 Record: 9-10 (3-5 ACC)
Final Ranking (2022): No. 5
Coach: Christine Halfpenny

TOP RETURNERS

Kasey Choma, M, Sr.

Choma led the Irish in goals and ranked third in ground balls in 2022 –– good for USA Lacrosse Magazine All-American honors. The Long Island native will again play a key role for Notre Dame, anchoring its attack and leading her teammates as a captain.

Hannah Dorney, D, Gr.

Dorney led a young Irish defense in 2022, posting team highs in both caused turnovers and ground balls. A veteran presence and two-time team captain, Dorney will look to elevate a more experienced unit to new heights in 2023.

Madison Ahern, A, Sr.

Ahern put on a show in 2022, posting a career-high 57 goals and a career-high 20 assists. Ahern is a threat to score in bunches, but Notre Dame likely wants more consistency from its star in 2023. She closed the season with only one goal in three of the final four contests.

KEY ADDITIONS

Emma Murphy, A, Fr.

Name a sport, and Murphy likely played it in high school. A former gymnast, volleyball player and swimmer, Murphy is also a dynamic attacker on the lacrosse field. The Michigan native holds the state’s record for goals scored in a high school season and was named a USA Lacrosse All-American. Murphy has the potential to slot in and gain some playing time among the Irish’s seasoned attackers.

Maeve Dwyer, M, Fr.

Hailing from the Chicago suburbs, Dwyer will take her talents over the state line to South Bend. She was dynamic all over the field, notching 116 goals, 66 caused turnovers and 146 controls during her high school career. A versatile midfielder, Dwyer could fill in wherever Notre Dame needs her in 2023.

Jaclyn Marszal, A, Fr.

Fun fact: The Glenelg Country (Md.) product is a triplet. That means almost nothing for her on-field talents, but Marszal grew up in a competitive lacrosse household and played for one of the top high school programs in Maryland. She registered 121 points (54 goals and 67 assists) during her senior season.

KEY DEPARTURES

Graduations: Bridget Deehan, G; Diana Kelly, D; Maddie Howe, A







STORYLINES TO WATCH

Who will take the lead in the cage?

The Irish lost a defensive force with the departure of goalkeeper Bridget Deehan following the 2022 season. Now, junior Lilly Callahan –– who played backup to Deehan in 2021 and 2022 –– is stepping into the role.

Halfpenny credited Callahan for taking advantage of all opportunities, including embracing the challenges of playing reserve over the past two seasons. Competing among three other goalkeepers on the Irish’s roster, Callahan set herself apart through her preparation.

“It was obvious her confidence was ready,” Halfpenny said. “Her commitment, her preparation was fantastic [and] put her in a really strong position.”

Callahan played in nine games in 2022, tallying 17 saves, and entered five games during her freshman season in 2021.

Ahern, Choma and Wolak come of age.

After a challenging fall ball slate, Halfpenny and her staff took time to evaluate what was working and what wasn’t.

When it came to the Irish’s attack, they chose to lean into showcasing Choma, Ahern and Jackie Wolak. So far, it’s led to “unbelievable opportunities” on offense, Halfpenny said.

Notre Dame’s trio have had a strong connection since their freshman year and have become key to the Irish’s offensive efforts during their time in South Bend. The trio combined for 156 of the Irish’s 288 goals in 2022, not to mention their defensive efforts on the ride.

Now seniors, they hope to build on years of experience against the beasts of the ACC. While Choma, Ahern and Wolak will lead, a crew of younger players are ready to shine. Between a mix of talented freshman and hungry returners, Halfpenny said the Irish have plenty of combinations to slot in.

Hungry for a return to ACC prominence.

The Irish struggled against a dynamic slate of competitive ACC and ranked, non-conference opponents in 2022. But the Irish hung on for an exciting end to the regular season, going 5-2 in April and nearly knocking out No. 1 North Carolina in the second round of the ACC tournament.

Despite well-earned fanfare to cap off the year, the Irish didn’t remain in the NCAA tournament for long. Michigan dominated the Irish 17-11 to end the season.

During the fall, Halfpenny said the team has recognized it’s not enough to make the tournament. Winning, and eventually returning to the Elite Eight for a chance at Championship Weekend, is the goal.

Upping the team’s lacrosse IQ was one priority after the Michigan loss. That knowledge wasn’t necessarily there with a younger, less experienced roster in 2021. The fundamentals and general knowledge of the game have begun to click and grow since then.

“That’s the biggest, exciting growth point for us: seeing our IQ take form in our performance, in our execution,” Halfpenny said.

ENEMY LINES
WHAT RIVALS ARE SAYING ABOUT THE FIGHTING IRISH

“To be honest, I don’t know. They could be really good. I know they are going to be fast and athletic. I know they can beat really good teams. It’s just whether or not they can be consistent.”

“They should be fantastic. That is an incredible roster of talent. It’s interesting. It looks like they’re playing a little bit of a weaker schedule but they have quite a bit of talent on that roster. Like you saw against Carolina last year, if they can put it together, they’re a scary team.”

“They just turned over their staff, which is always an adjustment. It can be a good thing, or it can take a little while. They were definitely a little Jekyll and Hyde last year. Losing their goalie is huge. Bridget Deehan put that team on her back a lot. They’re a big question mark.”

BEYOND THE BASICS
POWERED BY LACROSSE REFERENCE

1.19

The Irish offense finished 2022 with the 13th-ranked efficiency in Division I women’s lacrosse. After you adjust for the fact that they played a better-than-average set of defenses, they jumped up to 9th. A big part of their offensive success was the play of Jackie Wolak, who generated more than a quarter of the team’s assists. Over the past few seasons, she has really cut her turnover rate, which resulted in a 95th-percentile 1.19 assist-to-turnover ratio last year.

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