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ND Women’s Lacrosse

Irish look to rebound at Northwestern

| Friday, April 8, 2016

No. 7 Notre Dame has bounced back from defeat with a comfortable win on the road twice this season. After last week’s 14-8 defeat at the hands of North Carolina, the Irish (10-3, 3-3 ACC) have a chance to rebound again when they travel to Evanston, Illinois, to meet No. 19 Northwestern on Sunday.

The game will not only be an opportunity to rebound from a defeat for the Irish, but it will also be a rematch of last year’s NCAA second-round encounter. The Irish took an early 3-1 lead during the game, but it was the the Wildcats (5-6, 0-1 Big Ten) who won, 16-11, to advance to the third round, where they were defeated by eventual champions Maryland. Senior Kaleigh Craig and sophomore Selena Lasota, who both return for the Wildcats, were the stars of the game, each picking up five goals. For the Irish, senior Rachel Sexton and junior Heidi Annaheim each earned three goals and an assist.

Irish junior attack Courtney Fortunato surveys the field during Notre Dame's 16-4 victory over Virginia on March 19 at Arlotta Stadium.Grace Tourville | The Observer

Irish junior attack Courtney Fortunato surveys the field during Notre Dame’s 16-4 victory over Virginia on March 19 at Arlotta Stadium.

This year, neither team has been a stranger to highly-rated opposition. The Wildcats are the eighth of 11 currently-ranked teams on Notre Dame’s schedule, and the three Irish losses have come against No. 5 Louisville, No. 4 Syracuse and No. 3 North Carolina. A formidable out-of-conference slate has given Northwestern a similarly difficult schedule, facing a total of 12 currently-ranked teams this year. That strength of schedule has seen the Wildcats remain ranked despite their current losing record, with the season so far highlighted by wins over then-No. 4 Duke and No. 10 Stony Brook.

The Irish will hope to get out of the blocks quicker than they did last week against North Carolina. In that game, the Irish fell behind 9-1 after just over 15 minutes, their largest deficit of the season. Despite bringing the game back to within three goals midway through the second half, the early hole was too much for the Irish to overcome.

The Wildcats come into the game after rebounding from a two-game slide in emphatic fashion, with a comfortable 20-4 win over Michigan Thursday night, behind a 15-0 first half.

Irish graduate student defender and Tewaaraton Award finalist Barbara Sullivan enters the game with an opportunity to make team history. With 43 caused turnovers — which currently leads all players in the country — she needs only three more to tie the school single-season record, a mark of 46 set by Jackie Doherty in 2011. Sullivan already shares the single-game record with seven and holds the career record with 148. Junior attacker Cortney Fortunato will also look to continue a successful year for the Irish. Her 62 points currently place her first in the ACC and sixth in the nation.

The Wildcats have not been a prolific scoring team this year, totalling only 115 goals, led by senior Craig’s 25, and converting only .370 of their shots. However, Northwestern has been a strong team on the draw this year, out-controlling their opponents 141-106. Key to that success in winning possession has been sophomore midfielder Shelby Fredricks: Fredricks has 62 draw controls this year, good for second in the Big Ten behind Maryland’s Taylor Cummings.

The Irish will have the opportunity to avenge last year’s defeat to the Wildcats on Sunday at 2 p.m., when the two teams take the field at Lakeside Field in Evanston.

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