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ND Women’s Lacrosse

Second-half surge pushes Notre Dame past Stanford

| Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Trailing 7-4 to No. 15 Stanford in the second half of Saturday’s contest, No. 9 Notre Dame found the net eight consecutive times to guide the Irish to a 13-9 victory.

The Irish (2-0) created offensive opportunities early on, but were punished for fouls inside the 8-meter arc. Although Notre Dame led the Cardinal (0-1) in shots by a margin of 11-4, it was Stanford who led the game 4-1, with each Stanford goal coming from free-position shots.

Irish head coach Christine Halfpenny said she was not worried when her team fell behind early on.

“When you look at it, I think that Stanford controlled 25 percent of the game and we controlled 75 percent,” Halfpenny said. “Like I said, we want to come to come out fast, we want to come out strong, but we also understand that we’re playing one of the toughest, if not the toughest, schedules in the country, and that’ll play itself out as the season goes.

“But we know that’s what the first 15 minutes of a game will look like, we’re feeling each other out, we’re reading each other’s defenses, we’re reading each other’s scout reports. So I wasn’t really concerned at all because we were still battling, their first four goals were all off the 8-meter. So it wasn’t so much that we were getting torched, it was more that we just had to get out on their hands a little bit earlier so we weren’t giving away those fouls.”

Two Irish goals before halftime helped close the gap, but the Cardinal were able to bring the difference back to three goals with 20 minutes remaining. From there, the Irish took over. Eight unanswered goals in the next 15 minutes gave the Irish a 12-7 lead. Halfpenny said defensive adjustments helped her team control the game.

“I think a lot of credit today goes to Stanford for coming out,” Halfpenny said. “They’re a really great opponent, really well-coached, very prepared to play us. They jumped out ahead but ultimately I think that the final outcome speaks to the maturity of our team, their will to win and continually adjust and get back to the way we play. So I couldn’t be more excited about seeing the maturity of our team, and our willingness to play one play at a time, and I think that starts with our defense. Once we made some adjustments and got Stanford off the 8-meter, that started to fuel those offensive opportunities and also allowed us to start winning the draws and going on that 8-0 run.”

Irish graduate student defender Barbara Sullivan fights to retain possession during Notre Dame’s 10-8 loss to Louisville on April 19.Amy Ackermann | The Observer

Irish graduate student defender Barbara Sullivan fights to retain
possession during Notre Dame’s 10-8 loss to Louisville on April 19.

Graduate student defender and 2015 Tewaaraton award finalist Barbara Sullivan led that defensive performance. Sullivan, who led the ACC in caused turnovers in 2015, continued her defensive dominance from last year by tying a school record with seven caused turnovers, as well as recording a game-high six draw controls and three ground balls. Halfpenny said Sullivan’s committed mentality helps her to consistently deliver impressive performances on defense.

“That’s just Barbara doing what Barbara does,” Halfpenny said. “She’s a unique and special athlete and she’s a winner. I know that sounds cliche, but the reality is Barbara’s willing to do whatever it takes to put her team on her back, to do the little things. She fuels and motivates everybody to do their jobs and I think the way she battles again was just a signature of who she is and obviously it’s synonymous with our brand. We fight, we’re aggressive, we’re fast, we’re passionate. Barbara was so passionate today, and we were so thrilled that she got her fifth year here.”

Stanford junior attacker Kelsey Mitchell, who had five total goals on the day, ended the run, but a Notre Dame goal from junior midfielder Alex Dalton just nine seconds after the draw put any Cardinal hopes of a comeback to rest. Halfpenny said she felt her team was always capable of such a run once they settled into the game.

“It’s a long game, it’s 60 minutes,” Halfpenny said. “I think we got that momentum just by settling ourselves down and going back to playing the way we trained. The team looked to one another, they started talking a bit more, they just took care of the little things and ultimately that made big plays happen. Individual and collective efforts really helped that.”

Notre Dame’s next contest will be on Feb. 21, when the Irish open ACC play at home against Boston College.

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About Daniel O'Boyle

Daniel O'Boyle is a senior sports writer living in Alumni Hall, majoring in Political Science. He is currently on the Notre Dame Women's Basketball, Men's Tennis and Women's Soccer beats. Originally from Belfast, Northern Ireland, Daniel spends most of his free time attempting to keep up with second-flight English soccer and his beloved Reading FC. He believes Lonzo Ball is the greatest basketball player of all time.

Contact Daniel