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ND Women’s Lacrosse

Fortunato finds success in early-season matchups

| Tuesday, February 25, 2014

The NCAA instituted a new rule this year, stating that goalscorers must immediately drop their sticks after a goal so that officials can inspect them.

And just three games into her Notre Dame career, Cortney Fortunato’s stick has already seen a lot of the turf.

The highly touted freshman attack from Long Island starred for the Irish (2-1, 0-1 ACC) this weekend, contributing four goals — including the game winner — and an assist in a tight 8-7 win over Stony Brook.

Freshman attack Cortney Fortunato runs downfield in a Feb. 8        exhibition against Michigan. Fortunato scored four goals Saturday against Stony Brook.Zachary Llorens

Freshman attack Cortney Fortunato runs downfield in a Feb. 8 exhibition against Michigan. Fortunato scored four goals Saturday against Stony Brook.

Fortunato didn’t just score, however. She contributed all over the field, tying for the team lead in ground balls and caused turnovers, and she stepped up for a key draw control down the stretch to put the game on ice.

Irish coach Christine Halfpenny said the game was a huge step for the freshman, and she praised Fortunato as part of a group of young players who took charge against the Seawolves (2-1, 0-0 America East).

“Seeing [Cortney] really step in to a strong leadership role was huge for us today,” Halfpenny said.

Adjusting to the college game has come in stride for Fortunato, but that was to be expected. Coming out of Northport High, she was rated as the No. 1 recruit in the class nationwide. The offer letters rolled in from the elite of the college game, including Duke, North Carolina, Virginia, Florida, Maryland and Northwestern. But after a visit to South Bend, Fortunato knew where she wanted to be.

“I visited the top-10 schools for lacrosse, and it’s just different,” Fortunato said. “It’s just a different place, and it’s hard to explain unless you come here. The combination of athletics and academics, and the tradition of the school, and everything about Notre Dame, other schools just can’t match it.”

Freshman attack Cortney Fortunato (right) sets up for a draw in Notre Dame’s 15-10 loss to Boston College on Feb. 15. Emily McConville

Freshman attack Cortney Fortunato (right) sets up for a draw in Notre Dame’s 15-10 loss to Boston College on Feb. 15.

Coming from the high school level, though, even the nation’s top recruit had a learning curve to deal with.

“The pace is a lot faster,” she said. “I definitely had to adjust during fall ball to the faster pace of the game and get used to the different players I’m playing with and their tendencies. But I think everything else is pretty similar, so it wasn’t too hard of an adjustment. “

But now that the season has arrived, Fortunato has thrived in the elevated level of competition, which she credits to the fact that there are no easy games.

“Every game is a big game,” she said. “Every game is exciting. In high school there were the big games, but there were the few in between that weren’t too crazy. Everyone is on the same level here. Everyone is here for the same reasons and wants to put in the same effort as you to achieve the ultimate goals.”

That competition will only get better, as the Irish will head to North Carolina on Thursday to take on the Tar Heels — the defending national champions and the nation’s unanimous No. 1. Fortunato has lofty goals for her four years under the Dome, but Fortunato said she isn’t looking any further than Thursday night in Chapel Hill.

“The number one goal is to win the national championship, but my goal for the season is to take it one game at a time, to play the best of my ability and to help this team as much as I can.”

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