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ND Women’s Lacrosse

Notre Dame recovers from close home loss

| Thursday, March 31, 2016

No. 6 Notre Dame suffered a 12-11 defeat in a thrilling encounter with No. 4 Syracuse on Saturday before bouncing back with a comfortable victory over Marquette on Monday following a strong second half.

The first top-five matchup involving Notre Dame in over a decade swung back and forth repeatedly. The Irish (10-2, 3-2 ACC) drew first blood through junior midfielder Alex Dalton, who scored a pair of goals to make it 2-0 after 10 minutes of play. Notre Dame extended its lead to four when senior attacker Kiera McMullen scored to make it 6-2.

Irish junior midfielder Alex Dalton looks to pass in Notre Dame’s 16-4 win over Virginia on March 19 at Arlotta Stadium.  Dalton scored two goals in the first ten minutes of the game against Syracuse.Grace Tourville | The Observer

Irish junior midfielder Alex Dalton looks to pass in Notre Dame’s 16-4 win over Virginia on March 19 at Arlotta Stadium. Dalton scored two goals in the first ten minutes of the game against Syracuse.

However, redshirt sophomore midfielder Taylor Gait scored for Syracuse (9-3, 2-1 ACC) with six minutes left in the opening half, and the Orange gradually worked their way back into the game. Freshman attacker Nicole Levy scored another for the Orange before the half.

Though junior midfielder Casey Pearsall, who would score five total goals on the day, got one goal back for the Irish early in the second, Syracuse redshirt senior attacker Gabby Jaquith converted from a free position shot to put Notre Dame behind for the first time in the game.

The Irish took the lead back twice more in the game, but senior attacker Kayla Treanor gave the Orange a two-goal lead for the first time with 6:21 left in the contest. Notre Dame got one goal back when junior attacker Cortney Fortunato scored with 4:14 left, but, despite some late possessions, they couldn’t tie the game.

Irish head coach Christine Halfpenny said her team played well, but a few crucial errors made the difference.

“Overall we’re really happy with where we are,” Halfpenny said. “We want to clean up our transition game a bit. I feel like we had some unforced errors we would like back that did lead to lost possessions, and a gained one for Syracuse with potentially a goal out of it. But we can work on that, and continue to build on our great draw work, continue to build on our great fast-break looks and build on our great pressure.

“Getting the ball back when they were on their stall at the end was something we were very proud of, limiting one of the best draw control specialists in the country to three on the day, and winning the overall team battle. I was really excited about that. It’s just building on what we have and staying composed in the moment, putting some finishing on the opportunities that we are getting.”

Halfpenny said she felt the team struggled in particular with converting opportunities and getting second-chance opportunities on offense.

“Obviously we’ve taken a look and identified some areas that we could tighten our entire game,” Halfpenny said. “It goes without saying that we got some beautiful opportunities, and we just didn’t finish on enough of them. Really, if you look back and you look at the game, we had some of those, not just those great opportunities that we didn’t finish on, but a couple that we didn’t get back. And that’s just about being comfortable with our personnel back there, letting that aggressive offense develop, getting those second and third chance opportunities behind the cage, we just gave too many of those back to Syracuse and they took advantage of them.”

The Irish returned to their winning ways against Marquette (3-7, 0-0 Big East) on Monday, however. Although Notre Dame scored the first three goals of the game inside five minutes, the Golden Eagles kept the game close to halftime, as the Irish entered the break leading 10-7.

In the second half, though, the Irish added seven more goals and gave up only two, pulling away to win 17-9. Graduate student defender Barbara Sullivan was again a highlight for the Irish defense, recording six caused turnovers.

Halfpenny said she was proud of her team’s second half performance and ability to play the style they have become known for.

“I’m really happy with how the girls responded in the second half against Marquette,” Halfpenny said. “Marquette did a really good job with their pressure and their aggressive style of play. They were very physical, you could see that with the foul count. They tried to make the game ugly, and at times they did, but to see the composure that we held in the second half and how we got back to doing what we do, creating some beautiful fast-break looks, really, really holding down the fort on defense in the second half, only giving up two goals, obviously that’s our signature, giving up minimal shots so we can let in minimal goals, and then taking the ball down the other end and making big plays out of our big defensive stops.

“So I’m really happy with that, it just shows great response. Our ability to play our style no matter who our opponent is, that’s the biggest thing we’ve been focusing on this year. I’m really proud of the team.”

The Irish will next travel to Chapel Hill to take on No. 3 North Carolina on Sunday.

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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