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ND Women’s Lacrosse

Irish open ACC tourney

| Wednesday, April 23, 2014

No. 13 Notre Dame will face a formidable challenge in the opening round of its inaugural ACC tournament Thursday, as No. 1 Syracuse awaits the Irish when the team touches down in Chestnut Hill, Mass.

Irish freshman midfield Cortney Fortunato runs upfield during Notre Dame's 15-10 loss to Boston College at home Feb. 15.Emily McConville | The Observer

Irish freshman midfield Cortney Fortunato runs upfield during Notre Dame’s 15-10 loss to Boston College at home Feb. 15.

The Orange (15-1, 6-1 ACC) are a familiar and recent foe of the Irish (9-7, 2-5), as the two squads faced off in the final game of the regular season for both teams last Saturday at Arlotta Stadium. Syracuse jumped all over Notre Dame from the start, scoring eight goals before the Irish successfully converted their first shot on their way to an 18-10 victory. Senior attacks Alyssa Murray and Kayla Treanor led the way for the top-ranked team in the country, with three and four goals respectively. Freshman midfielders Cortney Fortunato and Casey Pearsall, and sophomore attack Kiera McMullan all had two goals for the Irish, but their struggles on defense undid them. Junior goaltender Allie Murphy allowed six goals in under eight minutes before being replaced in the net by freshman Liz O’Sullivan for the remainder of the game. Despite Notre Dame’s struggles against the Orange, Irish coach Christine Halfpenny said her team learned from their loss and head into Thursday’s game with no fear.

“We’re excited,” Halfpenny said. “This young team does better knowing they’ve just seen [Syracuse]. They’ve gotten to go against them live, see what they do well and what we can exploit. It will speak volumes to their improvement on Thursday. We want to keep it simple and make improvements and adjustments. We’ve just gone through one of the toughest schedules in the country, faced the number one team in the nation, so we feel we’re battle tested.”

 

Syracuse finished the season averaging 15.44 goals scored per game against an average of just 8.25 allowed, making it one of the top two-way teams in the country. Much of the team’s offense comes from Treanor, who had 58 goals in the regular season, while the Orange’s stingy defense splits goaltending duties between junior Kelsey Richardson and senior Alyssa Constantino.

The Irish were able to score more Saturday than most opponents of the Orange, largely thanks to the play of underclassmen like Fortunato and Pearsall. Fortunato led the Irish with 41 goals this year, and Halfpenny said that she and Notre Dame’s other young stars are going to have a breakout ACC tournament.

“Freshmen and sophomores make up two-thirds of the team, and we’ve seen their names littered all across the box score,” Halfpenny said. “The sophomores are having their first consistent season, and we’re looking for them to step up and mature. They have to learn from the ups and the downs, take it all in and utilize it as motivation and confidence. We feel they’re going to use the regular season as a springboard into the conference championships.”

This won’t just be Fortunato and Pearsall’s introduction to ACC tournament, however, since this is the first chance either the Irish or Orange will compete for the ACC crown since switching into the conference. Halfpenny said the Irish are thrilled to be in such a competitive tournament.

“Getting the opportunity to play in the ACC tournament is awesome, and is the next best thing to the NCAA tournament,” Halfpenny said. “Lacrosse fans know about the high quality of play in the ACC, and we want to uphold the ACC as the best lacrosse conference in the country.”

The Orange and Irish will face off at 3 p.m. today in the ACC quarterfinals in Chestnut Hill, Mass.

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