ND Women’s Lacrosse
Irish defeat Virginia in ACC tournament quarterfinal
Alex Carson | Friday, April 24, 2015
On a day where senior defender Barbara Sullivan and sophomore attack Cortney Fortunato were named two of the 25 Tewaarton Trophy nominees, No. 11 Notre Dame defeated No. 5 Virginia in the quarterfinals of the ACC tournament, 7-6.
While it was a quiet day on the scoresheet for the duo — Fortunato, Notre Dame’s leading scorer, managed just one assist — it was an influential one in possession, where Sullivan and Fortunato led an effort that saw the Irish (10-7, 3-4 ACC) control 12 of 15 draws, including all but one in the second half.
“I think that Barbara Sullivan was a key player in today’s game,” Irish head coach Christine Halfpenny said. “Having the ability to win the draw both clean as well as to get the ball to our side where we can really battle out for it. … Barbara had five of those by herself but was able to get it obviously on our side of the field, and that’s where Cortney came in big on a day where maybe they did do a good job of limiting her looks at the cage.”
Fortunato — who controlled three draws for Notre Dame — had a strong all-around effort on the day, Halfpenny said.
“Cortney obviously did so many different things for us; getting the three draw controls, forcing turnovers, winning ground balls,” Halfpenny said.
At the other end of the field, Notre Dame was led by sophomore goalkeeper Liz O’Sullivan, who made 12 saves on 18 goal-bound Cavalier shots to help the Irish secure the victory.
“She saw the ball really well, and I think she’ll be the first to tell you it was a big day,” Halfpenny said. “ … Any day you’re making double-digit saves is a big day, and any day you’re making 12 saves in the ACC tournament against a team with revenge on their minds, that’s huge.”
And while O’Sullivan’s 12 saves stand out for Notre Dame, Halfpenny said her defense’s effort helped the Irish goalkeeper out and sparked the offense in the process.
“You’ve also got to credit our defense on giving Liz the shots she wanted to see,” Halfpenny said. “Our unit in front of her is so mature and so strong.
“It was just a tremendous day down there and the more shots they made, the more saves Liz made, the more our offense was fueled and that’s where we really saw them come alive in the final 10 minutes of the game.”
After the two teams sparred for the game’s first 45 minutes — the game was tied 3-3 with just over 15 minutes left — the Notre Dame offense came alive late, scoring four times in 10 minutes to take a 7-4 lead.
Sophomore attack Heidi Annaheim scored to put the Irish ahead for the third time with 15:06 to play in the game, before a free-position goal from junior midfielder Stephanie Toy gave the Irish a two-goal lead with 10:24 left.
After the Cavaliers (11-6, 4-3) answered to cut the lead back to one, a pair of goals from junior attack Rachel Sexton put the Irish ahead three with 5:16 left.
From there, Virginia scored twice more, but could not overcome Notre Dame’s lead before time expired.
The win was Notre Dame’s second this year over the Cavaliers in Charlottesville, Virginia; the Irish won 14-4 on April 4.
“It just so happens these games have landed at a time when we have been focused and ready to go and in must-win situations,” Halfpenny said.
Notre Dame will get another crack at No. 2 North Carolina on Friday in an ACC tournament semifinal.
The Tar Heels (14-2, 6-1) won the regular-season contest, 9-8, at Arlotta Stadium on March 29. In that matchup, the Irish fell behind 7-1 in the first half before rallying to tie the game, 8-8, with just a few minutes remaining.
Halfpenny said her team must concentrate on playing its own style, not getting caught up playing the top-seeded team in the field.
“We need to come out, play our game, focus on us and get to the next play when things don’t go our way,” she said. “We’ve really got to buy into playing this tough, grinding, getting down-and-dirty style of lacrosse that we’re good at.”
Notre Dame and North Carolina will take to the Klockner Stadium turf in Charlottesville, Virginia, on Friday at 1 p.m. for their ACC tournament semifinal.