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ND Women’s Lacrosse

Sullivan anchors Irish heading into rivalry game

| Friday, February 20, 2015

Looking to continue building upon its early-season momentum, No. 8 Notre Dame makes a swing to the warmer West Coast this weekend for games against No. 18 Stanford and California.

The Irish (2-0) opened their season last weekend by defeating Cincinnati, 14-5, on the road and Detroit, 17-5,  at Loftus Sports Center. While Notre Dame’s first two opponents were overmatched against a talented Irish squad, senior defender Barbara Sullivan said that would not be the case out on the shores of the Pacific against the Cardinal (1-0) and the Golden Bears (0-0).

“Stanford is always so fun to play against just because we’re always neck and neck with them; it’s always a fight,” Sullivan said. “Cal, we’ve never played before, but it’s always exciting to play a new team, and they’ve always been good.”

The Irish are particularly looking forward to the matchup with Stanford, a team that has beaten them in the teams’ last two meetings. Last season, Notre Dame was edged by the Cardinal, 11-10, at home, and the year before, lost 8-7 to them in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

“We’re just two very similar schools, great athletes and super competitive,” Sullivan said. “I think every time I’ve played them, it’s been within a point or two. Last year, we lost to them in a really close game, and my sophomore year, they were the ones who kicked us out of the NCAA tournament.

“So it’s definitely a rivalry, not a game you just show up to. It’s marked on the calendar, and we want to beat them. They always just leave a bad taste on your mouth that you want to get some revenge for.”

The Irish started slowly in their first two games of the season, something Irish coach Christine Halfpenny said could be attributed to the team still trying to feel out the new pieces of this year’s lineup in the opening weekend. However, Halfpenny was adamant that her team could not afford another lackluster start in either game this weekend.

“We have to come out a lot quicker,” Halfpenny said following the Detroit game Sunday. “We can’t wait to get adjusted, so we’ll address that.”

The Irish were led offensively last weekend by two sophomores, attack Grace Muller and attack/midfielder Cortney Fortunato. Muller tallied seven goals in the two games last weekend, including a first-half hat trick Sunday, after registering 10 goals in 18 appearances last season. Fortunato matched Muller’s goal production while also chipping in five assists to kick off her season.

Irish sophomore attack/midfielder Cortney Fortunato pursues a ground ball during Notre Dame’s 17-5 win over Detroit on Sunday.Amy Ackermann | The Observer

Irish sophomore attack/midfielder Cortney Fortunato pursues a ground ball during Notre Dame’s 17-5 win over Detroit on Sunday.

Despite the increased level of competition and the rivalry game atmosphere, Sullivan said the Irish were going to try to prepare as they always have.

“We try to approach every game the same, where it’s just another day,” Sullivan said. “If you ask any athlete, we have those games marked on the schedule that you’ve got to win. Just with our history with Stanford, we’re all going to be really, really hyped for that one.

“Not that we weren’t for our previous two, but with teams like Stanford, where there’s such a history, we want to win badly.”

Sullivan also said she was not concerned about the three-hour time difference between campus and the West Coast.

“The majority of us are used to [traveling],” the senior said. “Yes, there is a time difference, but our coaches will prepare for it. We love traveling together.”

Notre Dame and Stanford are set to square off tonight at 10:30 p.m. at Cagan Stadium in Palo Alto, California, and then the Irish and Golden Bears will take to the field Sunday at 2 p.m. at California Memorial Stadium in Berkeley, California.

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About Zach Klonsinski

A senior History major, Zach resides in Knott Hall. Hailing from Belgrade, Montana, he has covered a wide variety of sports in his time at Notre Dame, including Football, Men's Basketball, Men's Soccer, Women's Tennis, Fencing, Rowing, Women's Lacrosse and other events around campus.

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