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Women’s Lacrosse: Sullivan makes early impact

Brian Hartnett | Tuesday, March 6, 2012

With no current representation in the Olympics, women’s lacrosse players vie for one of 12 team spots every summer in the Women’s Lacrosse World Championship. Thousands of athletes pine for the opportunity to represent their nation in the global challenge, but few are afforded the opportunity.

 

Last summer, freshman defender Barbara Sullivan got the chance to travel to Germany and compete with the United States U-19 squad.

Sullivan and her teammates made the most of their long journey overseas, going undefeated in the championship and defeating Australia 14-11 to take home gold. Sullivan made her mark on the team by helping anchor a tough defensive unit that allowed only 5.38 goals per game.

Competing in the championships, Sullivan said, would rank as one of the top moments in her lacrosse career.

“It was an awesome experience,” Sullivan said. “It was so neat to be able to travel to Germany, meet new people and play against teams who were not speaking your language.”

In addition to facing top international competition, Sullivan also had to battle for playing time with her teammates. Many of them now play lacrosse at top Division I schools. Sullivan said she gained valuable experience competing with her teammates, particularly freshman goalie Allie Murray. Like Sullivan, she would be moving to South Bend shortly after playing in Germany to join Notre Dame’s team.

“Allie and I were actually roommates in Germany for two and a half weeks, so we became really close there,” Sullivan said. “Just being able to play with her behind me before we got to college made the transition into college much easier.”

Although her college career is still young, Sullivan has made her transition to college look seamless.

She has started all three games this season for the Irish and been a strong force on defense, recovering five ground balls and forcing four turnovers. Finding playing time in the experienced Irish defensive front, which includes seniors Jordy Shoemaker, Megan Sullivan and Kate Newall, is not an easy task. But Sullivan said that the senior leaders have been more than willing to make her feel part of the fabric of the team.

“They’re three great leaders, and to come in and play with them has been a really awesome experience,” Sullivan said.

“We’re really close on and off the field, which helps a lot because they’ve taught me so much. I’ve learned a lot from just following the little things they do and the way they communicate with the coaches and each other.”

With the Irish off to a hot start, Sullivan said she looks forward to continuing to contribute to the team and help it reach its potential, a potential she sees as very promising.

“This team is capable of so much,” Sullivan said. “We were underrated going into the season, and I think we’re starting to prove ourselves. As long as we play the way our coaches want us to play, I think we can go real far, off to the NCAAs and maybe even the Final Four.”

As for herself, Sullivan said she had few personal goals, other than trying to improve every day at the game she truly loves. A distinguished three-sport athlete in her native Garden City, N.Y., Sullivan also had opportunities to play soccer and basketball on the collegiate level, but said she could not be happier with her decision to pursue lacrosse.

“I think the game of lacrosse itself is progressing at such a high rate, and it offers many opportunities,” Sullivan said. “I loved playing soccer and basketball, but I definitely made the right decision in sticking to lacrosse.”

Sullivan and her teammates will travel to Boston, Mass., on Saturday to face Boston University.

Contact Brian Hartnett at bhartnet@nd.edu