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ND Women’s Lacrosse

Cortney Fortunato leads offensive charge for Irish

| Wednesday, April 13, 2016

When Notre Dame lacrosse is mentioned, the first thing that usually comes to mind is defense. But although the Irish defensive unit is a strong one yet again this year, the offense has become a formidable unit in its own right.

A large part of that comes down to the performance of junior attack Cortney Fortunato, who currently leads the ACC in points. Fortunato scored five goals and added two assists in Sunday’s 17-12 defeat to Northwestern, bringing her to 69 points for the season. That puts her only four points behind Longwood senior midfielder Sarah Butler for the top mark in the nation and 13 points ahead of the next-highest ACC player, Syracuse senior attack Kayla Treanor. Although she has the opportunity to lead the nation in points, Fortunato said her individual statistics are not her main concern.

“I think for any player, it’s always on the back of your mind, but it’s not a top priority at all,” Fortunato said. “Playing with such good players surrounding me, I think we’re a pretty selfless offense. It’s really not on my mind. Coming and playing with such talented people around me, who are all so selfless and with good chemistry between us all, it just comes easy that all of us are getting points in games. I don’t think that everyone’s trying to get theirs at all; I think it just comes naturally to whoever gets on the end of it on the day.”

Junior attack Cortney Fortunato cradles the ball during Notre Dame’s 16-4 win over Virginia on March 19 at Arlotta Stadium.Grace Tourville | The Observer

Junior attack Cortney Fortunato cradles the ball from behind the goal during Notre Dame’s 16-4 win over Virginia on March 19 at Arlotta Stadium.

Fortunato acknowledge that the team is still known mostly as a defensive powerhouse but said this has helped the offense come into its own as well.

“I think that, historically, we’ve been more of a defensive, steady and strong force as a team,” Fortunato said. “But I think that this year is a little bit different. We still have our really strong defense, but it anchors our offense and allows us to take a little more risks, knowing that we have that strong defense behind us. They can get the ball back for us if we do turn it over. So I think it makes it a lot easier knowing that you have a good defense behind you, letting you take risks and go for it a little more.

“I think that practicing with them definitely helps all of us, including myself, on gameday, especially when we go up against other teams’ top matchups. Coming from practice when you’ve spent all week practicing against seven really strong defenders definitely helps on gameday.”

Fortunato arrived at Notre Dame as a highly-touted prospect from Northport High School in New York, the same school that produced Notre Dame’s all time leader in goals and points, Jillian Byers. Living up to the high expectations, Fortunato impressed as a freshman, winning WomensLax.com’s national Rookie of the Year award, and has followed that up by making the 25-player shortlist for the Tewaaraton Award, which is given each year to the nation’s top player, last year before her success this year. Fortunato said needing to live up to hype, whether it is as a freshman or as a junior, is something that she is used to.

“I think that there have been big expectations since coming in freshman year, but there have been high expectations for our whole team and all of our attackers,” Fortunato said. “So I think that, over the past years, we’ve gotten really comfortable playing with each other, and that’s definitely helped us come out this year, building on what we had last year. I think that this year we have really good chemistry, and we have really high expectations for us on the field.

“I think that everybody’s a little bit more mature, a little more confident and has a bit more experience on the field. Having a lot of upperclassmen on the field and on the team who have been playing together for so long, we naturally flow better together and trust each other that little bit more.”

Fortunato and No. 10 Notre Dame will next be in action on Saturday, when it hosts No. 13 Duke at Arlotta Stadium. The game is set to begin at noon.

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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