Elon WLAX Hosts No. 11/9 Notre Dame Thursday at Rudd Field

ELON, N.C. – Elon University women’s lacrosse will battle its second nationally-ranked ACC opponent of the 2017 season when it welcomes No. 11/9 Notre Dame to Rudd Field on Thursday, Feb. 23, at 6 p.m.

The Phoenix hosted High Point at Rudd Field on Sunday, Feb. 19, and earned a 14-7 victory over the Panthers to move to 4-0 on the season. Elon jumped out to a 5-0 lead in the first half and while High Point cut it back to three at 6-3, Elon used another 5-0 run to take a commanding lead and put the game out of reach. Stephanie Asher and Anna Vitton each scored four goals to lead Elon. The Phoenix is now 3-0 on the season against opponents from the Big South and has scored an average of 14 goals per game while allowing just 5.6.

Elon and Notre Dame have never met on the lacrosse field. All-time, Elon is 2-6 against ACC opponents with the two victories coming each of the last two seasons against No. 10 Duke in 2016 and No. 13 Virginia earlier this year. Both games have been one-goal decisions with Elon scoring in the closing seconds. Thursday’s game also marks the fourth time Elon will host a nationally-ranked team. In 2015, the Phoenix fell to No. 8 Duke in Rhodes Stadium and dropped games to No. 2 North Carolina and No. 17 Towson at Rudd Field over the course of the last two seasons.

Notre Dame is on a four-game winning streak entering Thursday’s game against the Phoenix. The Fighting Irish dropped the opening game of the 2017 season to Northwestern, 14-13, but has topped Liberty, Detroit, Marquette and Michigan since. In those contests, Notre Dame is averaging 18.8 goals per game with two wins by final scores of 24-9 over Detroit and 21-9 over Marquette. Notre Dame is ranked No. 11 in the Cascade/Inside Lacrosse media poll and No. 9 in the IWLCA Coaches poll thus far with its 4-1 record.

Stephanie Asher, the program’s all-time leading scorer, is one goal away from becoming the first Phoenix to score 100-career goals. With 17 thus far in four games this year, Asher leads the CAA by seven goals over the three-way tie for second place and is averaging 4.25 goals per game, which is second in the league behind Becky Gohsler’s 5.0 goals per game after scoring 10 in two games for the Blue Hens thus far.

For the second season in a row, Elon is 4-0 to open a campaign and looking to make it 5-0, which would be the best start in program history. A season ago, the Phoenix defeated San Diego State, Longwood and Coastal Carolina in its first three games before going on the road to beat No. 10 Duke in Durham to move to 4-0. Before that, Elon opened the 2015 season 2-2 and was 1-3 in 2014, the program’s first of competition.

In Elon’s first season of competition, it went 3-3 against Big South foes. Since, the Phoenix has posted a perfect 10-0 record against the conference, including wins over Campbell, Winthrop and High Point already this season for a 13-3 overall mark.

With the Feb. 11 win over No. 13/14 Virginia, Elon has now beat a nationally-ranked team in each of the last two seasons. In 2016, the Phoenix went on the road to No. 10 Duke and won 7-6 in Durham, N.C. Beating Virginia now gives Elon an all-time record of 2-6 against ACC opponents. Overall against ranked teams, Elon is 2-8 in 10 games to date.

With her team-leading five goals and game-high four draw controls in the season opener against Campbell, Stephanie Asher was named CAA Player of the Week on Tuesday, Feb. 7. It marked the second Player of the Week award of her career. Last Tuesday, Alexis Zadjura took CAA Defensive Player of the Week after leading Elon’s defense with three draw controls, two ground balls and two caused turnovers while helping to keep three of Virginia’s top scorers to just two goals apiece in the game.

Rachel Ramirez is off to a stellar start in goal for the Phoenix. In four games, her 6.40 goals against average ranks 11th-best in the nation and is tops in the CAA. She sits second in the league in the early going in saves with 33. With Elon only allowing 6.75 goals per game thus far, the number ranks 10th-best in the nation.

Two Phoenix earned preseason All-CAA honors on Jan. 20 with Stephanie Asher and Rachel Ramirez being named to the All-CAA team and Sloane Kessler and Alexis Zadjura earning honorable mentions. In the preseason poll, Elon was selected to finish third behind Towson and James Madison. The third-place selection is the highest Elon has been in a preseason poll in the program’s brief history.

Elon posted its first winning season and first 10-win season in 2016 with an overall 10-7 record and 3-3 mark in the CAA. One of those victories was Elon’s 7-6 win at No. 10 Duke, the program’s first win over an ACC team and first win over a ranked opponent. At season’s end, the Phoenix finished No. 29 in the NCAA RPI. Elon was second in the CAA with 15.2 ground balls, 23.4 shots and just 10.9 turnovers per game in 2016 and Stephanie Asher was third in the conference with 2.2 goals per contest and fourth in assists with 1.2 per outing. Rachel Ramirez finished tops in the CAA with 3.06 ground balls a game, a total of 52 on the season.

The 2017 campaign marks the fourth season at the helm of the program for head coach Josh Hexter after being hired in April 2012 to start and lead the Phoenix lacrosse program from the ground up. Named Atlantic Sun Coach of the Year in 2014, Hexter has amassed 102 wins in his career at Elon and Bridgewater State with a 30-24 record in 54 games at Elon. Over the course of his first three seasons, he has coached two conference freshmen of the year and a total of 12 all-conference players.

The Phoenix will hit the road for the first time since Feb. 11 with a road game at Virginia Tech on March 1. Elon and Virginia Tech have met once before in 2014 with the Hokies earning a 17-7 win in Blacksburg, Va. The game, including Elon’s Thursday night game against Notre Dame, is part of a run with three of four games against ACC foes. After taking on Vanderbilt on March 8, the Phoenix will close that run with a road game on March 14 at defending national champion North Carolina.